As published in the Long Island Press, on longislandpress.com and danspapers.com.
Spring is a great time to review your estate plan. Here is a checklist to help you review your estate planning documents.
Check the Last Time You Updated Your Estate Plan
An estate plan should be periodically reviewed to make sure it is up to date, typically every five years or sooner if there is a major life event. Major life changes that might your estate plan include births, deaths, divorce, substantial changes in your assets or holdings, major changes to your health or your health care needs, or similar changes in the lives of your beneficiaries.
Do You Need to Update Your Will or Prepare One?
It is essential that everyone has a Last Will and Testament, which is a legal document that directs the disposition of your estate after your death. If you pass away without a Will, your estate will be distributed under the default intestacy rules in New York. For example, if you were survived by a spouse and children, the first $50,000 passes to your spouse, and the remainder is divided half to your spouse and half to your children, including minor children. Many people would instead prefer their assets to pass all to their spouse. If you do not have a spouse or children, generally your estate would pass to your closest living relatives (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, etc.). This may not be who you want to inherit from you. That is why it is important for everyone to have a Will that reflects their wishes and why a Will is the cornerstone of estate planning documents.
Review Your Current Beneficiaries
Over time, your desired beneficiaries may change. This applies to your Will as well as the beneficiaries you designate directly on certain financial assets such as retirement plans, IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities, and life insurance. A marriage or divorce can certainly influence who you would like to inherit your assets, and may require adding or removing a spouse as a beneficiary.
Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents in a Safe Place
Your loved ones will need to access your estate planning documents (such as a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will) in an emergency, so you should make sure you keep your documents in a safe place (a locked drawer or cabinet) but not in a safe deposit box. For our clients, we offer the Cona Elder Law Online Document Vault, which allows our clients and their trusted appointed agents 24/7 access to electronic copies of their estate planning documents. This is one benefit of creating a strong attorney-client relationship with the right firm like Cona Elder Law.
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