Spring has arrived, and for many this is the time of year to bring their lives into order. Spring is also a wonderful time to bring your estate plan into order or freshen up an already existing one. Here, the estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of James A. List provide tips on how to spring clean your estate plan.
Discard Old Documents
There is a plethora of documents that will play an important role in crafting your estate plan, including tax returns, mortgage documents, deeds, bank statements, investment account information and more. It is important to note, however, that these documents do not need to be kept indefinitely—tax records should be kept for three to six years, bank statements for one year and warranties or information for any assets you hold until you sell the asset, or the warranty expires. Be sure to safely dispose of any old documents—consider shredding them or taking them to a secure data destruction facility.
Organize Your Assets
For someone with a wide array of assets, it may be valuable to create a spreadsheet that thoroughly details them. This should include information regarding any real estate, cars, bank accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, stocks, recreational vehicles, business interests, jewelry, fine art and more. Be sure to include each asset’s value, insurance coverages, the way they are owned (jointly, individually or beneficiary designation) and how they may be accessed. This will reduce the amount of stress and uncertainty for your loved ones upon your passing.
Review Your Will/Trust
As we grow older, our lives change. We may become married, separated, divorced or widowed; have or adopt children; sell and obtain new assets and more. Be sure to review your will or revocable trust regularly to ensure the beneficiaries listed are still appropriate, and that each of your assets is accounted for. If you need to update your will or trust, be sure to safely discard the old one in order to prevent confusion and inform your loved ones where your will or trust and other estate planning documents can be found in the event of your passing. A letter of instruction can provide a nice guide to those left behind.
Draft or Review Your Advance Healthcare Directive
When we are young, we often forego estate planning tools such as an advance healthcare directive or living will, as it can be a difficult subject to consider when we are in good health. Unfortunately, without one, loved ones can be left in extremely difficult circumstances, forced to make painful decisions without your guidance. Avoid this hardship by drafting an advance healthcare directive that details how you wish medical decisions to be made in the event that you are unable to communicate them yourself. If you have already drafted an advance healthcare directive, review it to ensure the individuals who you have given responsibility for medical decisions are still appropriate choices. If your health has changed, you may also need to include language that specifies how you wish for a specific concern to be handled.
Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney
Your estate plan is an absolutely vital tool that can affect your loved ones for generations to come—retain your peace of mind and ensure an easy transition by speaking to a qualified estate planning attorney. The estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of James A. List have the experience and dedication necessary to help prevent your estate from going through a complicated probate process and ensure your desires are carried out effectively. For more information about how we can help you draft an effective and legally compliant estate plan, contact James A. List today.