You let out a huge sigh of relief. For months, maybe years, you have pushed off creating an estate plan. For whatever reason, you decided now was the time to get it done. You signed the Trust, Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Guardianship Nomination, and other documents. You feel great with the new peace of mind that comes with knocking out one of those major “to do” items. Congratulations! #adulting
But, before you go off and celebrate your big victory, don’t forget these 3 tips for safeguarding your estate plan.
#1 Keep Your Plan Safe & Accessible
There are many ways to physically safeguard your estate plan. Here a few simple tips we like to give clients:
- Fireproof/Waterproof: Place originals in a fireproof/waterproof safe or filing cabinet. Just keep in mind, fireproof does not necessarily mean “burn” proof.
- Duplicated Original: Ask if your estate planning attorney keeps a duplicated original. Our office, as a rule, does not. However, some law firms may.
- Digital Copy(ies): Ask if a digital copy of your estate plan is available. One of the reasons we do not keep a duplicated original is to preserve space and natural resources. This is why Welch Law scans all documents into a pdf format and preserves our records in multiple digital storage spaces. We are always happy to transfer a digital copy to our clients, I imagine other firms would do the same.
- Safe Deposit Box: Be cautious with Safe Deposit Boxes. If you store your originals in a safe deposit box, we recommend working with the bank to understand their rules on someone gaining access to your safe deposit box after your death. Sometimes this can be problematic and might require an order from the Probate Court.
#2 Tell Someone Where to Find It
One of the most important ways you can safeguard your estate planning documents is to tell someone they exist. Perhaps the successor Trustee, or your Estate Administrator. You should also consider telling them where these very important documents will be located. This does not mean you have to give them immediate access, or tell them what the documents say.
From a probate attorney view point, when we know we have estate planning documents, it makes the way forward a lot easier. Uncertainty often leads to guess-work. Since you took the time to plan, make sure someone knows how to find and implement your plan.
#3 Safeguarding Your Estate Plan Means Revisiting It Regularly
The estate plan you create today, may not meet the needs of your tomorrow. Hopefully things don’t change that quick for you, but it can. As such, we recommend clients review their documents on the following schedule:
- Annually: On your own, or with your attorney, to look at key persons and assets. For example, you named your brother Joe as your Trustee, but last year Joe filed bankruptcy. This may be a sign that Joe is no longer the best person to handle your financial assets. Or, you purchased a new car and failed to put a Transfer on Death designation on the title. Both can happen quickly, and failing to address these situations could throw your plan off track. (Note. Some law firms now offer plans so you can meet with your attorney every year. Check out Welch Law’s Trust Protection Plan to see how we work with our clients.)
- Every 3-5 years: You should meet with your estate planning attorney to review your documents. Laws change, assets change, people change, and your estate plan may need to change with any one or more of them. Your estate planning attorney should be able to pick up on the significant changes and provide you advice and counsel on how to address those changes. Estate plans are not a “set it and forget it” tool. They will require some work over the years.
- Major Life Events: This should go without saying, but too often we get tied up in our lives to remember. When a major life event occurs, at a minimum you should contact your attorney to see if you need to revisit your estate plan. What are major life events? Some usual suspects are: death, divorce, disability, birth of a child, winning the lottery, and any other circumstance that impacts you or one of the named individuals (or their heirs) under your estate plan.
Safeguarding your estate plan shouldn’t take too much work, yet it is necessary to ensure your major victory doesn’t crash and burn. Following these three short tips can save your loved ones a lot of unnecessary time and money, and keep your plan on track to accomplish your goals.