Estate planning is an ongoing process. Once you have done the hard work of drafting your will and living will, there may still be a number of reasons to look over your documents and make changes if needed. To find out if your estate is up to date, ponder these 6 ‘stress test’ questions.
1. Has anything changed since the last time you updated your will or living trust?
Think about whether any important events have taken place such as:
- Have you married, had children or divorced?
- Has anything changed business-wise such as buying or selling a business?
- Have you changed your mind about how you want to divide your assets?
If you have made any significant changes, then it is important to update your documents as soon as possible. This is because the beneficiaries named in your will, receive what has been left to them, regardless of whether your relationship with them has changed. Also, there are often legislation changes, and these may have significant tax or other implications for your plan.
2. Are you fully covered by insurance?
In most cases, people fail to fully cover themselves and their businesses, as well as neglecting to name beneficiaries of insurance plans. Check that your insurance policies are in order, and that the people you have designated as beneficiaries match those in your estate plan.
3. Who are the people named as executors and trustees?
It may be that your plans were drawn up a while ago. You might find, if given a choice, the people that you named as executors and trustees then, would not be the same people that you would name if you re-did your will now. Check that you have chosen the best person for the job and that they are still available and willing to serve in that capacity.
4. How is your property owned?
If you have property that is jointly owned with someone that is not your spouse, there is the potential for double taxation in the event of your passing.
If you own 50% interest with the other co-owner, you both have control over the asset. Upon death, the surviving owner receives 100% of the property outright with no creditor protection and your interest is not left to your beneficiaries.
Work with an estate attorney to ensure that the outcome you wish to happen upon your passing has been put in writing in your estate plan.
5. Are your records up to date?
It’s frustrating and time-consuming for an estate executor to try and untangle an estate where there are valuable assets, but not much in the way of record keeping. It may also cost your beneficiaries as assets may be overlooked or incorrectly processed.
For new accounts, properties and businesses that you own but did not update in your estate plan, a probate will be opened. The new assets will then be distributed in accordance with the laws in North Carolina, which may not align with your wishes.
6. When did you last give your estate plan a thorough read through?
It may feel like nothing momentous has happened recently that would warrant making changes to your estate plan. But, if it’s been over five years since you’ve spoken to an estate planning attorney, it’s time to make an appointment. You can use the time to clarify any questions you might have about asset protection for your beneficiaries and using a standalone retirement trust.
If you need some help with estate planning, it’s time to contact an Raleigh estate lawyer. Stephen Stewart of Stephen P. Stewart Law is a specialist estate planning attorney that has helped hundreds of individuals with their family estate planning in Raleigh. He is available to assist with setting up a living trust, estate planning trusts, and is a qualified probate attorney.