According to a 2019 survey, 57% of adults in the U.S. don’t currently have estate planning documents in place. We’ve discussed in previous blog posts and in our video series the potential pitfalls of having insufficient or out of date documents. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, January is a great time to put an estate plan in place or, if you have an existing plan, to revisit and update your existing documents.
If you don’t have an estate plan, put one in place.
There are dozens of reasons people may not have estate planning documents in place. They might think they’re not old enough to need a will or that they don’t have enough assets to leave behind. The reality is, everyone can benefit from having a few basic documents in place.
For example, once an individual turns 18 his or her parents are no longer able to make healthcare or financial decisions for the individual. This is an ideal time to set up a Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney to ensure your wishes are met in the event that you’re unable to make them clear yourself.
You’ll also want to consider documents like a will or trust that will dictate who will manage your estate and inherit your assets and nominate a guardian for any minor children.
Don’t forget to think about your digital assets. We all house more information online than ever before, and you’ll want to account for things like social media accounts and digital photos that have sentimental value, as well as any digital assets with monetary value like cryptocurrency or websites.
There are many things to consider when putting the appropriate documents in order. You can read more about getting the process started in our Estate Planning Basics blog post.
Revisit existing plans and documents.
You may already have in place many of the documents we discussed above, but a lot can change in a year.
Several very important and recent changes to laws regarding probate, taxes and retirement planning have been enacted that make revisiting your plan a good idea.
In addition, as you’re reflecting back on the big life events that took place over the past 12 months, use this time as an opportunity to consider which legal documents might need to be updated to account for these changes.
Did you get married or divorced? Is there a new member or has there been a death in your family? Has your asset picture changed? Has your own health or that of a beneficiary, proposed guardian, agent, personal representative or trustee changed significantly? Do you have a new employment situation? Have you moved or purchased property?
If there have been major changes along these lines, or if there are other changes that you think might affect your current estate plan, it’s a good time to review your existing documents with an attorney.