New Year’s Resolutions in Estate Planning

2014 has come to an end, and a new year is upon us. Milestones like a new year are a great time to get a fresh start and set goals for the future–it almost feels natural to do so, doesn’t it? For many people, those goals might be losing weight, tackling some major project, organizing the garage, or learning Italian, and if you take on a goal like that, I wish you well…and I can’t help you much there. However, there are some estate planning goals you should set and achieve this year:

  • Update your beneficiaries. Longtime readers might remember me talking about this before; this is something that’s so easy to take care of. If you have life insurance, retirement plans, or “transfer on death” or “payable on death” registrations on your accounts, check to make sure you’re happy with your beneficiary choices.
  • Get your documents together. Estate planning documents are easy to forget about…and then you need them. If you were incapacitated today, could your family (and your attorney in fact under a power of attorney, if you have one) find your paperwork? If you died today, could your loved ones find your estate planning documents? If the answer is “no,” fix it! If you’re interested in will storage options, read this post I wrote a while back. And it’s not just estate planning stuff: old tax forms, business documents, financial records…could your loved ones find that stuff in the event that they needed to?
  • Check to see if it’s time to review your plan. I generally recommend reviewing your estate plan every 3-5 years or when major changes to your life or the law occur. As circumstances change, a plan that made sense some time ago might not be your best option anymore.
  • Make sure you’re ready to help someone else. Are you someone else’s agent under a power of attorney or personal representative under a will? Could you find their documents if the need suddenly arose? Do you know what they would want you to do if you were the one making the decisions? Acting on another’s behalf is a both a great honor and a great responsibility. If you don’t know the answer to these questions, find out! Also, take a moment to look at my guide to how to do a great job as someone else’s agent under a power of attorney.
  • Create a plan. If you’ve never done any estate planning, and you’re wondering if it’s time, I have a self-assessment to help you decide. My hope is that after you complete the assessment, you will know if you have needs that estate planning can address or if you can put it off a while longer. Don’t forget, though, that you don’t have an expiration date stamped on you, and by the time you need a plan, it’s too late to get one. Don’t delay too long.

Hopefully, you won’t need any of your estate planning documents in 2015; by taking these steps, you can rest easy knowing that if something comes up, you’re prepared.

Enjoy this article? Why not sign up for my e-mail list and get updates to your e-mail box and a free copy of The Missouri Estate Planning Guide?

Photo credit: Flickr user James Niland, licensed under CC 2.0

Leave a Comment