You may have already made some 2020 New Year’s resolutions about your health or your career. However, the start of the year (and in this case, the decade) is a great time to make some estate planning resolutions, too.
While estate planning can feel overwhelming at times, it’s essential to devote time to it if you want to secure your family’s future or ensure that the individuals you want to inherit from you do so in the most efficient, least costly way possible. Here are five important estate planning tasks to address this year.
1. Draft a will if you don’t already have one.
A valid will is a document that tells a probate court how to distribute your property and financial assets when you die. Without one, there is no legal way to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. In your will, you should name a trusted executor (such as an attorney, family member, or friend), who will be responsible for overseeing the management of your assets after your death.
2. Create a revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust is another estate planning tool that aids in the transfer of property. A revocable living trust can be adjusted at any time during your life and preserve certain assets for specific reasons important to you, such as keeping the family home for your children to continue to be raised in if both you and your spouse die. It’s especially important to create a revocable living trust together if you have children under the age of 18, so you can designate how their inheritance and finances will be managed until they reach an age or ages where you feel most comfortable having them control their inheritance.
3. Update your powers of attorney, executor, and/or beneficiaries if any family circumstances have changed.
Ideally, the person(s) you name as attorney-in-fact under your powers of attorney and executor in your will is someone you trust to keep your best interests at heart. Unfortunately, your initial choices for these roles may not always remain the same.
A designated attorney-in-fact or executor should be changed in your estate plans if the chosen individual passes away before you, or if other recent circumstances (divorce, bankruptcy, a falling out, etc.) make you feel that they should not be involved in carrying out your final wishes. Be mindful not to appoint someone who could abuse this privilege for selfish reasons.
Similarly, you may want to review your list of beneficiaries to ensure that your selections reflect your current circumstances. For instance, if you are recently divorced, you should review your will and change anything that may be associated with your ex-spouse and their family.
4. Make sure you’ve appointed a legal guardian for any minor children you may have.
No parent wants to think what would happen if they pass away while their child is still a minor. However, this is precisely why naming a legal guardian in your will is so important.
Typically, if you die before the child turns 18, your child’s other parent becomes the legal guardian and assumes responsibility for that child’s care and well-being. If you both pass away (or if the other parent is not involved in your child’s life), having an appointed legal guardian or guardians ensures that important decisions about your child’s future are not left to a court or Department of Social Services.
5. Review your entire estate plan and consider whether you need to make any changes.
Your life circumstances can change a lot in a few short years, so be sure to review your entire estate plan and consider whether you need to make any changes, especially if you have not done so recently. When making these updates, ensure that all your retirement accounts, joint properties, life insurance, and beneficiary designations are recent.
Get help keeping your estate planning resolutions.
The best way to keep your 2020 estate planning resolutions is to work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. has almost 20 years of experience serving the needs of Virginia families. Contact us today for help with creating or updating your estate plans.