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Estate Planning Summer Checklist

We get busy this time of year as families get ready for summer vacations. Here is an Estate Planning Checklist to review before your trip.

1. Living Trust.  Do you have one? Is it up to date?

  • Successor Trustees. Are your successor trustees (the people who will manage your money and assets if you become incapacitated or pass away) still the ones you want? Or does your living trust name your neighbor from 7 years ago that you don’t ever see anymore?
  • Who gets your stuff? Is your living trust’s description of who gets what still what you want?
  • Funding. Have you transferred your assets to your living trust? One of the main reasons to establish a living trust is so your family will avoid probate when you pass away. If you don’t transfer title of your primary assets (ie house, bank accounts, investment accounts, business, etc) to your living trust, your estate will have to go through probate – even though you have a living trust.

REFI ALERT. If you have refinanced your house since you did your living trust, your house may not be titled in your trust. Most banks will make you take title out of your living trust for the refi. Unless you are paying attention, the title company won’t transfer the house back to your living trust. This is something you will have to ask them to do. If they didn’t, your house will be subject to probate. Check your grant deed and most recent property tax bill to confirm your trust is the owner of your house.

2. Guardians. If you have young children, this is the big one. Are the guardians you listed in your will to raise your children if you aren’t around still the ones you want? If not, you and your spouse need to spend a few hours considering who you want as guardians and update your will.

3. Agents for Durable Powers of Attorney. If you become incapacitated, who do you want to have authority over your assets for you? Usually these are the same people named as successor trustees of your living trust.

4. Agents for Health Care Decisions. Who do you want to make health care decisions for you if you can’t? Are the people listed on your Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAA still the ones you want and is their contact information current?

5. Life Insurance. Have you paid your premium? Do you have enough insurance to comfortably take care of your family for the long term if something happens to you? And if you have minor children, have you named your living trust as beneficiary of your policy so the insurance company won’t require probate?

These are important things to think about. They may seem daunting, but they really aren’t. You can review your estate planning documents in an hour or so and if needed, a good attorney could update your documents in a few weeks.

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