This week is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, which makes it a great time to reassess your estate plan and determine whether there are any changes to be made.
- Verify asset value: If you’re leaving assets such as real estate or antiques behind, their value will fluctuate over the years. This could mean that, in terms of asset value, you’re leaving more or less to named individuals than you’d intended. Every year, it’s a good idea to check on the value of your assets and make sure no changes need to be made in terms of asset division for your heirs.
- Reconsider generational planning: As your family grows, you may decide that leaving assets only to your children isn’t enough. You may decide that you want to leave something behind for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Talk to an advisor about the value of trusts, stretch IRAs and other multigenerational estate-planning techniques.
- Check all beneficiaries: Not all of your estate plans are handled in your will. Some of your accounts already have beneficiaries named and that will determine who gets what asset. This is generally true for things such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts. You may also want to check and see who is a joint owner on any financial accounts you own, since those assets will funnel through to the named joint owner even if they haven’t contributed anything to the account.
- Update your paperwork: There’s no benefit in making it difficult for your heirs to determine what you wanted done with your assets after your death. That’s why you need to leave clear, updated instructions in an accessible place. You can also keep copies of life insurance policies and other paperwork that your survivors may need.
- Remember that estate planning isn’t just about asset distribution: Another aspect of estate planning that too many people neglect is to clarify the funeral and burial plans they want. Whether you prepay for a cremation or specify any special arrangements you want, it’s important to make your preferences clear and easy to follow.
An estate plan isn’t something you can just create and then forget. Every year, go over your plan and make necessary updates so your plan represents your true desires and nothing is left open for interpretation.