Minneapolis Estate Planning Lawyer Continues Her Explanation on Why You Should Resolve to Get Your Estate Plan Done in 2016
The first post in this series discussed the life events that may necessitate revising your estate plan. In this post, I explain what to look for within each document to ensure the plan still meets your needs.
- Review your Will and/or Trust.
Whether you have a Will or a Trust, there are certain provisions you should review to ensure that crucial document still meets your needs. Below, I provide a list of elements of these documents that are most important to review.
a. Personal Representative (also known as the Executor) and Trustee designations.
The individuals and/or institution you name should be those you consider responsible and trustworthy. If you designate more than one individual Trustee, consider whether they get along and will be able to work together. In addition, it is a good idea to discuss with your Personal Representative or Trustee your reasoning for any “out of the ordinary” provisions you may have included in your documents, such as disinheriting a child or making unequal distributions among children.
It is important to regularly review who is designated to receive your property after your death, including any monetary gifts you may make, to ensure you still want that person/institution to receive the money/asset. Do you still talk to that friend to whom you are giving $5,000? Does your child still owe money on that loan you refer to in your documents? Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done!
c. Gifts of Specific Property.
If there is any specific item of property, such as a family heirloom or jewelry, that you want a particular person to receive, you should update your documents to incorporate that gift. In Minnesota, you may draft a simple document giving personal property – NOT cash or real estate – to a specific person. Before you ask, yes this means a car. So, instead of marking everything in the house with multi-colored stickers, you can draft, sign and date a document listing the item and person to whom it should be given. Warning: this only works if you already have a valid Minnesota Will as this list becomes part of that Will.
- Review your Financial Power of Attorney.
This is the document that allows the person you name as agent to handle financial and business matters on your behalf. I tell my clients that this is the most important document in your estate plan as it is valid immediately upon signature. As such, iIt is essential to review who is named as your agent regularly to ensure that person continues to be someone you trust to deal with your bank accounts, sign your name to documents, etc. If you do remove a person as your agent, you must also provide notice of this removal (revocation) to that person and to attempt to recover any copies of your previous power of attorney they may have in their possession. Consider whether the designation you have made is still fitting now.
3. Review your Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive..
Your health care power of attorney appoints one or more individuals to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself and, if you filled it out, communicates to your doctors your wishes for end of life care if you have a terminal condition. Review your health care power of attorney to ensure the persons you have appointed as your attorneys-in-fact are individuals you trust to make major medical decisions for you and who are mature enough to handle that responsibility. It may also be wise to appoint at least one person who lives in the same city or state as you, rather than someone who lives across the country and would be less accessible in the case of an emergency. You should also review the wishes you have expressed in your living will for your medical care. As medical standards and procedures evolve, your wishes may evolve as well. In addition, it is a good idea to discuss your wishes with the person(s) you have appointed as your attorney(s)-in-fact.
4. Review the Beneficiary Designations on your Insurance and Retirement Plans.
I know, I know. We are back to beneficiaries again. But, for all the same reasons you should review the beneficiaries of your will or trust periodically, you should also review and assess the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans. These designations are often overlooked by people when updating their estate planning. The last thing you want to do is update your trust to write out an ex or to disinherit a child but inadvertently leave that person as the beneficiary of your life insurance. Caution: please make sure you don’t list a minor child as a beneficiary. If you have minor children you should set up a Trust to accept money on their behalf as they are unable to inherit directly. It can be cumbersome to have a court get involved in overseeing funds left directly to a minor.
If your review turns up a desire to change any of your agents, beneficiaries, or anything else, call our office now to set up an appointment to discuss your planned revisions.