Estate Plan Spring Cleaning

estate plan organization

Do not put your tax documents away just yet! With tax day last week and the feeling of spring in the air, this week is a great time to get into some spring cleaning. No, we do not mean power washing the deck or shampooing the carpets. Spring – especially at the end of tax season – is the perfect moment to review and update your estate plan.

Many people think of estate planning as a one-time deal. Draft a will, maybe a durable power of attorney, and you are done. Right? Nope! Effective estate planning should be carefully tailored to serve you and your family as you are now. Not as you were ten years ago or when you last looked at your plan. And not twenty years from now, when you expect to be enjoying retirement. You never know when the unexpected might happen, so it is important to update your estate plan regularly so that it can grow and evolve along with you.

Keep Those Tax Documents Out For A Little While Longer 

Tax season is a great time to organize your financial documents and update your master list of assets. If 2017 brought you any big purchases, sales, or growth, you probably noticed a big change in your taxes, and there should be a coordinating change in your estate plan. We recommend that all of our clients keep a list that outlines all assets that make up their estate. This document should be kept in a secure place, like a safe or safe deposit box, but it also should be accessible to a trusted friend or family member when you pass. This list will help your family, your lawyer, and the personal representative of your estate or trustee of your trust to gather all of your assets together during the administration of your estate or trust.

If you keep any assets in online accounts, such as online banking or brokerage accounts, you may also want to include user names and passwords on your asset list.

Take A Look At Your Beneficiary Designations 

You may not remember this, but when you opened any financial “product” with a bank or brokerage firm, like a savings account, IRA, or investment account, you likely filled out a form designating a beneficiary to receive that asset when you die. That form, even though it is usually a boilerplate document, is very powerful. If you have completed a beneficiary designation, that form will take precedence, even if you write something different in your will.

A lot of people never look back at these beneficiary designations after they are submitted, which can cause some devastating results. A person you would not want may be in line to inherit some valuable parts of your estate. To ensure that your assets pass to the people you choose, it is important to revisit beneficiary designation forms, especially if there has recently been a major life event in the family, such as a birth, death, marriage, or divorce.

Does Your Estate Plan Do What You Think It Does? 

One of the best things about an estate plan spring clean is that you get peace of mind knowing that your estate plan actually does what you want it to do. This Spring, make a little time to meet with an attorney to read through your estate plan together. This will give you a chance to find your estate planning documents (where did they end up after that last big move?), share with a lawyer what you want them to do, and get feedback on whether the documents you have actually create the results you expect.

An experienced estate planning attorney, like the ones at Kira Doyle Law, can point out any red flags and share legal updates with you about how your estate plan will actually work. Depending on what is happening with your business and your family, this may be the year to create a trust, update your will, or make arrangements for your children’s education.

Creating A Digital Estate Plan  

If you have not done so already, we strongly recommend that you take some time to create a digital estate plan that fits in with your traditional estate plan. If you use the internet, you have a digital presence and, believe it or not, your online presence is a part of your estate. Social media accounts, online financial assets, and digital photographs, music, writings, and videos are all part of your estate that will need to be properly addressed.

Different social media accounts and email servers have different legacy plans, but they only work if you opt-in. Facebook, for example, allows you to choose an administrator, who will be allowed to make changes on your memorial account. This is another area where it is a good idea to make a list of usernames and passwords and let a loved one know where to find that list. Some accounts will not allow anyone else to access your information after you pass, and you may want a loved one to be able to simply log in and retrieve any photographs, videos, or messages that may hold significant sentimental value for your family.

Update The Documents That Affect You While You Are Still Alive 

As we get older, our ideas and values change. Certain beliefs we held in the past may no longer ring true. That is why it is so important to revisit those estate planning documents that affect us while we are still alive. Take this spring cleaning opportunity to read through your designation of health care surrogate, living will declaration, declaration of pre-need guardian, and durable power of attorney. Are your appointed surrogates still up to the job? Do your choices still reflect your values and wishes? If you do not have any one or more of these documents prepared, now is an important time to get them drafted. These documents communicate your values and wishes now, so that your loved ones know what to do if you ever become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.

Spring Cleaning Can Be Fun! 

We know estate planning is not always the most exciting subject, but just think about how great it feels when your spring cleaning is done and your home is ready for the new year. You will be able to breathe easier and rest soundly knowing that you have diligently done the work to protect your loved ones and your assets for another year.

Ask A Florida Estate Planning Attorney For Assistance

If you are ready begin organizing and protecting your most valuable assets, start by calling our office in St. Petersburg, Florida at 727-537-6818 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today!

Kira Doyle