You have accomplished a great goal; one which you have put off for a long time because you had all kinds of excuses for not getting it done. You also needed to make many hard decisions.
But now it’s done and you can put the big book that you received from the attorney on a shelf and forget about it. Right?Unfortunately, there is more work to do to ensure the success of your plan. For instance:
What do I do with my documents?
Some attorneys, CPAs or financial planners will offer to keep your original documents in their office. Otherwise, those documents should be kept in a safe place in your home or in a safe deposit box at a bank. If you use a safe deposit box, make sure that someone else is named on the box and knows where the key is in case of an emergency.
Make sure that your family members and the trustee know where the documents are and what is in them. Discuss the plan with your family now so there are no surprises and the family knows why you are making those decisions.
Distribute copies of your health care directives to your primary care doctor and the agents you have listed in the document. This document expresses your wishes for end-of-life decisions if you can’t make them on your own. It’s a good plan to talk to your agents on the health care directive about the details and the circumstances such as:
- Do you want life support?
- Do you want your organs donated?
- Do you want to be buried or cremated?
- Where are the documents?
- Do you have your funeral paid for?
What else do I have to do?
Change the title on all of your assets. Most of the attorneys who do estate planning will help you change the name on your real estate assets. Make sure you do it on the rest of your assets.
For instance, you will need to go to your financial institutions and brokers to get the title changed on your accounts to the name of the trust. As long as you have a Revocable Living Trust, you will be able to keep the accounts in your own Social Security number. Otherwise, you will need to obtain an EIN (employer identification number) from the IRS.
Review your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, pension and retirement plans to make sure they agree with your estate plan and do not include a deceased or divorced spouse.
You may have set up a family member or friend on your accounts with joint title “for convenience if something happens to you.” Is that compatible with your estate plan? If not, then the title needs to be changed also.
Organize your paperwork
To make things easier for yourself and others, consider organizing your documents at this time. Make a list and file the documents together for:
- Life insurance policies
- Pensions or retirement accounts
- Bank accounts along with monthly statements
- Bank location of safe deposit boxes along with the key and a list of items in the box
- Professional advisers
- Last three years of tax returns
Now can I relax and forget about the estate plan?
Change is guaranteed in life and your estate plan is really a work in progress. Changes can include:
- A new child or grandchild
- Death of a spouse, child or the trustee
- A family member becomes disabled
- Marriage or divorce
- Tax laws change
- Finances change dramatically
When you have changes like the ones above, please have your plan reviewed by your attorney.
Getting your original estate plan done is an amazing achievement. Now, take a few more steps to make sure that the whole plan is in place and working before you actually need it.
Marcia L. Campbell has worked as a CPA for 25 years specializing in seniors, trusts, estates, court accountings and probate litigation support. Reach her at Marcia@MCampbellCPA.com