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What to look for when updating your estate plan

What to Look for When Updating Your Estate Plan

June 26, 2023

When is the last time you reviewed your estate planning documents? If it’s been more than a couple of years or you’ve had a significant change in your situation, it is important to do a complete review to confirm that your plan still meets your goals and objectives. You will also want to confirm that there have been no changes in laws that would impact your overall estate plan.

The following is a list of items to consider when updating your estate plan (this list is not intended to be all inclusive):

Trust Distribution Provisions: How does your will and/or trust distribute assets to beneficiaries? Consider whether amounts should be distributed outright, or held in trust either for a beneficiary’s lifetime or distributed at a certain age or benchmarks.

Contingent Beneficiaries: Does your will and/or trust identify beneficiaries in the unlikely event your spouse, children and descendants (or other named beneficiaries) don’t survive you? You should confirm who these beneficiaries are (if any) and whether they should still be included. If there is no one designated, then the assets may pass according to your state’s laws of intestacy.

Specific Gifts: Does your will and/or trust identify any beneficiaries that should receive specific assets? You should confirm whether it’s still appropriate to name these beneficiaries and any amounts they may receive.

Fiduciaries: Who do you have named as your fiduciaries and are they still a good fit? You should confirm who is designated in the following capacities:

  • Executor/personal representative – this is the person or entity designated in your will that is in charge of securing the assets of your estate and then distributing them according to your wishes.
  • Trustee – this is the person or entity designated in your trust (or will) that holds the assets of a trust and generally assumes responsibility for managing the assets and carrying out the purposes of the trust.
  • Agent under financial power of attorney – this is the person that handles your financial affairs for you in the event you are unable to handle them yourself.
  • Guardian for minor children – this is the person(s) who have the power and responsibilities to care for your minor children and make all decisions related to their care, education, health, and welfare.

You should also consider having at least one successor named in each capacity. Are all of these people still living and able to serve in their designated capacity? Do you still have a good relationship with each of them? If not, it may be time to update one or more of your fiduciary designations.

HIPAA: Do your estate planning documents contain HIPAA provisions that allow your fiduciaries to have access to your Protected Health Information? If not, you may want to consider updating your documents to allow for these provisions, or execute a stand-alone HIPAA authorization. A HIPAA authorization lists the individuals that are allowed access to your “protected health information” that could be necessary in order to act on your behalf, or on behalf of your estate or trust.

Personal Property Memorandum: If allowed under your state’s laws, have you prepared a personal property memorandum to dictate how tangible personal property should be distributed? A personal property memorandum is a separate document that is referenced in your will and/or trust that lists all of the tangible personal property items that you would like to distribute to specific people. You should confirm whether this document has been completed and/or if it needs to be updated.

Funeral/Memorial Instructions: If allowed under your state’s laws, have you prepared funeral or memorial instructions to indicate your wishes? Many states allow you to state your final wishes regarding the disposition of your last remains. This may also include instructions about burial or cremation, as well as any funeral or memorial services. You should confirm whether this document has been completed and/or if it needs to be updated.

Designated Beneficiaries: Who is listed as the primary and secondary beneficiaries on assets
such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, payable on death (POD), and transfer on death (TOD) accounts? You will want to confirm that these beneficiaries are in alignment with your overall estate plan.

Titling of Assets: How are your assets currently titled? You will want to confirm that how your assets are titled is in alignment with your overall estate plan.

Investment and insurance products and services are not a deposit, are not FDIC insured, are not insured by any federal government agency, are not guaranteed by the bank, and may go down in value. First Western Trust cannot provide tax or legal advice.

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