Updating Your Estate Plan

Fall is here, and soon the holidays. Now that we have put summer behind us it is time to think about what remains to be done in 2017. For some of us that means there is still time to update our trusts and other estate planning documents (or start the process if we don’t have any in place to begin with). What are some common things to consider in updating your documents?

First, who are your successor fiduciaries: or those individuals who will manage your affairs if you are not able to do so (or have passed). This is the successor trustee in your trust, executor in your will, and agent under a durable power of attorney for financial matters or health care. This could be a family member, close friend, or professional fiduciary. Be sure that you name a primary successor and at least one back-up successor. This is one of the most common clauses to go out of date in documents: people die, move away, or lose touch for any number of reasons. Make sure that if something were to happen to you, the person that you would currently want to take over is named in your documents.

Second, who do your assets pass to? That is, who gets what, or what share of your estate? Don’t forget to include your regular charities in your will or trust. This changes less frequently, but remember to review this clause if there has been a major life event: death of a loved one, remarriage, or of course divorce. Even something as routine as children becoming adults may be a time to look at your trust, particularly if there are continuing trusts in place in your document.

And finally, how are your assets titled? This is a good time to update your schedule of trust assets, while making sure that assets are correctly titled in the name of your trust. If you have inherited assets think carefully how you will hold title if you are married. Inherited assets are legally “separate property” and adding someone else to the title will risk converting the asset to joint ownership. Similarly, if you plan to purchase a home or already own one it is important to make sure that you understand the legal implications of who is on the deed as an owner, and what type of ownership (joint tenancy, tenants in common or as community property). I will discuss this more next month.

Enjoy the fall weather!