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Annual Estate Planning Checkup

The Annual Estate Planning Checkup

This originally aired on the Catholic Faith Network’s show CFN Live:

For those 50 and older, they understand the importance of an annual health care checkup, but what about an annual estate planning checkup?

Do you really need an Annual Estate Planning checkup?

There are several reasons why an annual estate planning checkup is so important for those over the age of 50.

Simply put, you want to make sure you are protected, your assets are protected, and your family is protected. So, it is important that you check on a regular basis whether you have a healthy estate plan. And why not do this at the beginning of each year?

What is involved in an annual estate planning checkup?

Like a medical checkup, the estate planning attorney has a list of areas to check. There are three important areas to cover:

Annual Estate Planning Checkup

  1. First, whether there have been any life changes that may impact your estate plan.
  2. Second, a current list of your asset holdings and the current value of those assets, and
  3. Third, a review of your estate planning documents to make sure they meet with your current desires.

What are life changes that would impact your estate plan?

Estate Planning Life Changes

Here are the key life changes that would impact your estate plan: 

  • Health. If you or a loved one have a significant change in your health requiring medical care or long-term care, you may need to implement long-term care planning to protect you and your assets.
  • Births. You may want to consider the needs of a new child or grandchild. Your estate plan can protect your family through the use of trusts.
  • Marriages. If you marry, you may want to revise your estate plan to provide for your spouse/partner in a protective way.
  • Deaths. The loss of a loved one may necessitate revising your estate plan. You may need to change your Will and/or Trusts regarding your beneficiary designations and your fiduciaries (Executor, Trustee).
  • Fiduciaries. If your fiduciary named in your documents is no longer available or suitable, you will need to change the name of your executor under your Will, your trustee under your Trusts, or agents under your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives.
  • Finances. If you have a significant change in your monthly income or expenses, then you should have your plan reviewed to ensure that you can cover your living expenses and maintain your quality of life.
  • Government Benefits. If you have had a significant change in your eligibility and/or coverage under a government benefits program, you should review your plan to maximize any benefits that you may be entitled to.
  • Move Out of State. If you are considering moving to another state, then you want to have your estate plan reviewed to make sure it works in the other state.

Why review asset holdings annually?

When you create a relationship with your estate planning attorney, you want to be able to seek their assistance in good times and in bad times. For the attorney to be most helpful, the attorney needs to have current information.

In a crisis, the attorney wants to be able to jump right in and help.

As to the process, whether it is on a sheet of paper or an excel chart, you should make a list of everything you own, how they are owned and the value of each asset.

CLICK HERE to download our Complimentary Estate Planning Questionnaire which could be helpful in creating this list.

Once you have the list, it should be updated at least once a year – I would suggest as of December 31st of each year and this information should be shared with your family (typically, the executor of your estate or agent under your durable power of attorney).

As part of the annual checkup, the attorney wants to make sure that your assets are owned in the proper way to meet your overall estate planning objectives.

For example, if you have a bank account, who should receive the bank account if you should pass away? Is it held jointly with right of survivorship, or do you have a pay on death beneficiary designated.

The estate planning attorney would also review the overall value of your estate to minimize any potential federal and New York State estate taxes.

What are some concerns when reviewing estate planning documents?

Estate Planning Documents

  • Do your estate planning documents reflect your current desires? For example, you named one of your children as executor in your Will but that child has issues that would render him or her a bad choice. In that situation, you would want to update your Will and name someone else as executor.
  • Has there been any changes in the laws that would require your revising estate planning documents? For example, the New York State Durable Power of Attorney statute was revised in June of 2021 and the latest version is more protective and easier to execute.

In the annual checkup, your attorney is looking to make sure that you have a comprehensive estate plan. It is not uncommon for the attorney to see that the client has implemented parts of the estate plan but not all the parts. Now, it is a good time to fill in the pieces.

With annual checkups, one’s estate plan will become more protective of you and your family as the pieces come together.

If a catastrophic event occurs, having an up-to-date estate plan is important!

At Russo Law Group, we are often contacted by clients and family members due to a crisis.

The attorney can be most helpful if they have up to information and documentation so the attorney can quickly move advising the client as to how to address the crisis at hand.

In our law firm, we believe so strongly in this approach, that we have created the Peace of Mind Program which includes an annual checkup.

We hope you found this article helpful. Contact our office today at 1 (800) 680-1717 and schedule an appointment to discuss what makes sense for you and your loved ones.

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