It’s that time of year again: You should review your estate plans to see if they still meet your needs. Estate planning is seldom a “one and done” type of experience. Because life is full of changes and surprises, it’s smart to go over your plans every year around this time to make certain that they are complete.
Here are a few places to start:
1. Look at your beneficiary designation forms
Insurance policies, IRAs and the like can all be directly transferred to your heirs and skip probate — but you need to have the right beneficiary designations on there. It’s also important to name successor beneficiaries, just in case. For example, if you name your spouse as your only beneficiary on your life insurance policy and then you’re both killed in a common accident, your kids may be left struggling to obtain the funds necessary to handle your final expenses — unless they’re successor beneficiaries.
2. Think about trusts to protect your assets and heirs
Trusts don’t necessarily make sense for everyone — but they are a great way to protect your assets from creditors and transfer wealth to the next generation when you have a lot to protect. The right trust can also ease your heirs’ tax liabilities. If you haven’t already discussed a trust with your estate planning attorney, you probably should.
3. Incorporate a digital asset plan into your estate
What happens to your social media accounts after you die? A social media account that’s locked down and unable to be accessed — or one that seemingly goes on forever and keeps popping up in your loved one’s timeline — can be a great source of frustration and pain for your survivors. Get a plan in place and leave your heirs information on how to handle those accounts — along with your email accounts and other digital assets (like bitcoin).
Tweaking your estate plan isn’t hard — but it is essential. An outdated estate plan can actually complicate the situation for your heirs more than having no will at all.