Reviewing Your Estate Plan – A New Year’s Resolution – Part One

Reviewing Your Estate Plan – A New Year’s Resolution – Part One

INTRO: Time to talk about New Year’s resolutions, and specifically about considering whether or not it is in your best interest to resolve to have your estate plan reviewed before 2017 begins. I encouraged you to focus on the fact that estate planning is not static. Rather than a one time event (when you have documents prepared and signed), it should be a lifelong process of ensuring that your legacy will be as you wish and carried out efficiently. Here are some specific examples of why it might be prudent to have your estate plan reviewed now.

At the beginning of the year, people often resolve to take care of some things that are important to them. Should reviewing your estate plan be on your list of resolutions for 2017?

Of course, before you can review an estate plan, you need to have one to review. If you have never established one, there’s no time like the present to do so.

Experiencing the death of a loved one or simply watching the news (including fortunately rare, but unfortunately all too familiar, tragedies like the recent horrific killing of innocent people in Connecticut) reminds us of our own mortality. However, rather than just dwelling on the sadness of mortality, it can also be embraced as an opportunity – to create a better life; and to create a strong and joyful legacy for those we love.

If you have an estate plan (Will; Power of Attorney; Advance Health Care Directive; and perhaps, a Revocable Living Trust), you can congratulate yourself for building one piece of the foundation of your legacy. Hopefully, your documents were drafted competently, were customized appropriately, and were accompanied by thoughtful advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. In any event, how long has it been since you established your estate plan or since you last had it reviewed by counsel?

It’s important to embrace the concept that estate planning is not static. Your personal, familial and financial circumstances change; estate planning custom and practice changes; tax laws change; and your wishes tend to change. So, how do you even know if it’s prudent to have it reviewed, and what’s involved?

Without treating the following as “set in stone”, I hope they serve as a useful reference about when and why it might be wise to have an estate planning attorney help you review (and update) your plan.

1) In general, I advise clients to review their plan at least every 3-5 years. Certainly, you should do so before that if you have experienced any material change in your personal, familial or financial circumstances or wish to make specific changes to your documents.

2) If you have any minor children, you should be sure that the guardianship provision in your Will is consistent with your current wishes. A premature death of a parent is devastating enough without enabling a court to appoint any guardian other than the person(s) you trust and want most to care for your children.

3) Your Advance Health Care Directive should contain a HIPAA Release provision. Older documents do not contain these important clauses, potentially rendering your designated agent unable to obtain your medical records when needed.

4) If you have just a Will, but no Revocable Living Trust, and you own your own home and/or have a substantial amount of other assets, you should give serious consideration to establishing a Revocable Living Trust. A Trust has many advantages over a simple Will, including probate avoidance; privacy; efficiency; and (typically) lower attorneys’ fees and costs to administer.

PART TWO: Rob explains more reasons why you should have your estate plan reviewed now before 2017 in Reviewing Your Estate Plan – A New Year’s Resolution – Part Two.

This article is intended to provide information of a general nature, and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, financial and/or business advice. Readers should obtain and rely upon specific advice only from their own qualified professional advisors. This communication is not intended or written to be used, for the purpose of: i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code; or ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.

Mr. Silverman is an attorney with R. Silverman Law Group, 1855 Olympic Blvd., Suite 125, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; (925) 705-4474; rsilverman@rsilvermanlaw.com.

ESTATE & TRUST ADMINISTRATION: Need to find an experienced estate & trust administrator in Walnut Creek CA? Contact Robert Silverman at 925-705-4474 for legal advice on a Revocable Living Trust, “Summary” Estate Administration, Trust/Estate Beneficiary Representation and Will & Trust Disputes.

Next Reviewing Your Estate Plan – A New Year’s Resolution – Part Two

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