IS IT TIME TO UPDATE YOUR ESTATE PLAN?


Last Will and TestamentOk, so you buckled down and put some estate planning documents in place.  For most people, once they “check the box,” they consider this activity completed and they never revisit their plan.  However, there are many reasons why it might make sense to revisit your plan from time to time.  Here are a few.

Have you prepared a will or a trust?

Maybe you put in place a power of attorney for a sibling who was watching your children when you and your spouse went out of town, and you consider that “estate planning.”  The first step is to have at least the minimal amount of legacy planning in place, and that means a will and potentially a trust.  Without this planning in place, the Missouri legislature will determine how and when your assets are distributed. Even the most basic estate plan can give you control of who benefits from your estate with the added benefit of providing clarity and comfort to your survivors.

Has your will or trust been reviewed since January of 2013?

There were multiple and significant tax law changes in 2013 which may affect your plan. Estate planning is a process.  Keeping your plan current is vital to achieving the goals you set out to accomplish when you initially put the plan in place.

Has there been a change in your life, or in the life of a loved one?

Has a marriage, birth, adoption, death, divorce, or estrangement changed how you would like your estate administered upon your death? 
   

Are all of your heirs over the age of 18 and financially responsible?

Under Missouri law, children inherit property at age 18 without restriction unless you direct otherwise in your estate plan.  Proper planning can prevent an heir from squandering his or her inheritance.  Ask yourself honestly:  "What would I have done had I received this inheritance at age 18?" 

Have you titled your assets properly to ensure your estate plan works as you intend?

Even with good estate planning documents in place, your assets can be subject to a probate administration if your assets are not titled properly. This is the most overlooked aspect of estate planning.  Take some time and confirm your assets are titled properly.

Do you have assets titled jointly with a child or children, or someone else?

Holding assets jointly with someone other than a spouse is quite common, but has some potentially devastating consequences with respect to creditors of the other joint owner. A creditor could include a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor, or business creditor.  Additionally, problems can be created if joint tenants die in the wrong order.  Having proper estate planning documents in place with correct titling could eliminate this problem.

Does your current plan provide your heirs with asset protection, divorce protection, and lawsuit protection?

The most common means of providing for heirs is with outright distributions. By doing so, however, the inheritance becomes subject to your heirs’ creditors (potentially including divorcing spouses).  With proper planning in place you can protect your heirs from losing their inheritance to creditors.

Is this your first marriage?

Second or subsequent marriages present unique planning issues, particularly if both spouses have children from a prior marriage.  Proper planning is critical to preserve family harmony and prevent undesired results.