You spent all that time putting together the perfect estate plan. When it's done, my clients always ask me,
Is it done, or do I need to do more?
For clients who work with my office, there are a few things that we work on as we're getting ready and then we sign our documents. When we're finished, one of the first things we do is fill out the My Personal Planning Essentials checklist (even if you're not a client, you can download it so that you haveall of your important contacts in one place). The other thing we do is make sure that all of your important documents are protected and they're in one place (which is not your safe deposit box).
So after you signed your documents, the question is what's going to happen next?
What Happens Next?
Over the course of the next 3 years, you should be checking various parts of your estate plan to make sure that everything is current and nothing needs to be changed. Some of those check-ins include:
- Make sure that you have access to all of the electronic copies of your documents in your client portal. Many clients will sign those documents and get the notification that the client portal is all set up, but never get around to setting up their access, so it's important that after we've done all the documents we've got everything signed a process that you make sure you have access to your client portal.
- The next thing we're going to check is your beneficiary designations. At our initial meeting, we probably discussed quite a bit about the importance of beneficiary designations and how they work with your estate plan. A few months after signing your plan, we want to make sure that the beneficiary designations are all set correctly based upon what's in your will or trust. (This is something that's good for you to do at least once a year, and hopefully your financial advisor or a financial planner is making sure to do that with you).
- Another thing we'll want to review after you sign the documents is your digital assets. Have you added more cryptocurrency? Do you have a password manager? Where are your social media accounts located? Do we need passwords for them? It's very important that your digital assets are also planned out for, and that we constantly check to make sure everything is kept up to date.
- Usually about a year to a year and a half after you first signed your documents, we're going to come back to your personal planning essentials checklist and make sure that everybody is in the correct place. Maybe you've changed insurance agents, maybe you have a new accountant or a new financial advisor. If that's the case we want to make sure that we get that list updated.
- We're also then going to talk about a year and a half later to make sure you know where are the original documents. The documents do you no good if you can't find them, or if you stuck them in a safe deposit box that can't be opened without a court order, so we'll want to make sure after your estate plan is done and about 18 months later, do we still know where those documents are?
- Another important area to look at is your insurance. If you don't have an insurance agent, by all means, shoot me a note and I can give you some names of people who can review the insurance you have on your home on your cars on your life, whether you have an umbrella policy, whatever types of insurance you have, you want to make sure those are properly tied to where you are in life at that point, if we're looking at about two years after you signed your estate plan. We want to make sure that the life insurance is properly beneficiary. We want to make sure you have the right home insurance, maybe we've transferred your house from your name into a trust that we make sure that the insurance company knows about it and that it's set up properly. The worst thing that you can have to happen is for your insurance policy not to know that the house is in the trust, and then something happens and you have the wrong insurance coverage.
- Finally, after about three years you're going to sit down with your attorney and let's see what is going on in your life, whether there have been major changes. People have always asked me why it's three years. If you have children you know that every three years or so they're probably changing schools they've gone from elementary to middle to high school, possibly to college if everyone's grown maybe you have new grandkids, you have more young babies at home. So every three years. You want to make sure you're checking in with your attorney to see if anything has to be changed in your estate plan.
Oftentimes we'll sit down and find out that there's nothing that really has to be done. Or maybe it's just a small change and we have to do what's called a codicil, which is a simple one-page document, but it has to be signed with the same formality as your will, that just makes changes to your, your estate plan documents, or perhaps we have healthcare documents need to be updated. If changed doctors you want somebody else to be your healthcare power of attorney agent. So it's good after three years to sit down with your attorney to review what you have and make sure that everyone is properly in the right place, and that your legacy has been protected. So when clients ask me if their estate planning is really done, the paperwork is done, but it never really is finished, you need to continually go back and go through this list and check these things to make sure that your estate plan is properly laid out for you.
If you're not sure if it's time to review your estate plan, I've got a quick set of questions for you that will help you understand whether you need to sit down with an attorney.