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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Year’s End Serves as a Reminder of the Need for Estate Planning Reviews

Summary: The November and December holidays are upon us once again. The holidays are (hopefully) an uplifting time to re-connect with family, friends and other loved ones. They are also a signifier that another year is drawing to its close. The end of the calendar year signifies a lot of things to different people. To anyone with an estate plan, though, it should stand as a clear reminder of the importance of regular estate plan reviews and the benefits of ensuring that you’ve done the proper maintenance on your plan to keep it in “tip-top” shape. 

An annual (or other periodic) estate plan review gives you the opportunity to look back up the things that have taken place in your life in the last year (or since your last review,) and consider how they might impact your plan. Births, death, marriages and divorces can all play roles in altering the way in which you which to structure the distribution of your wealth.

Even in the absence of the occurrence of any of these events, you still need to do some maintenance on your plan. Maybe your goals have changed, due to a change of heart (or for any reason.) With the benefit of a periodic review, you can ensure that your updated plan will leave behind the legacy you want.    

Your review helps because it is a chance to look over your WHOLE plan. A complete review will do more than simply check the distribution provisions in your will or living trust. Your review allows you to look at all of the pieces that comprise the entirety of your plan and make sure they are functioning as a single, harmonious plan. Your plan is more than just your will and/or living trust, powers of attorney and living will. It also includes your life insurance, retirement accounts and any other account that has a death beneficiary designation on it. Your properties over which you’ve executed transfer-on-death deeds are part of your plan.

Maybe, for example, you experienced a divorce a few years ago. You updated your living trust, but did you update your entire plan? The court system has many reported cases where a deceased person’s goals were thwarted because he didn’t update his entire plan. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case looked at a Virginia man’s federal pension. Earlier in 2016, a federal District Court in Washington heard the case of a deceased Xerox employee and his retirement account. In both cases, the men had failed to sign new beneficiary forms after divorce. The Washington man inadvertently left his retirement to his ex-wife instead of his son. The Virginia man unintentionally left a six-figure benefit to his ex-wife, to the frustration of his widow. Transfer-on-death deeds function similarly and the risks of failing to update their beneficiary designations are similar.

With any death beneficiary designation, you should (and hopefully do) have multiple alternates to your primary beneficiary designation. At your review, you can not only review whether your primary beneficiaries are current, but the alternates, as well.  

Your estate plan is like a precision piece of machinery, with many different types of pieces that all need to “synch up” together in order to work together as one in order to achieve your objectives. Periodic plan reviews, such as annual reviews, allow you and your estate planning team to look at all of those pieces and make sure that each document and each designation form is up to date and properly maintained to do its job in creating the legacy you want. 

       
This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

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