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New Year’s Resolutions For You and Your Family

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New Year’s Resolutions For You and Your Family

Estate Planning New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Family

By Libby Banks, the Law Office of Libby Banks

With the holidays upon us, it’s time to think about your New Year’s Resolutions. Experts tell us that we are more likely to meet a goal when we attach a date to it. To be sure you achieve your goals, set a date by which you plan to accomplish each activity that moves you forward.

In the estate planning arena, here are several things you might consider putting on your list for 2018.

  1. Put a Will or Trust based estate plan in place. If you don’t have a will or trust, put getting an estate plan in place at the top of your list. I hear two things over and over from my clients: One, how easy I made the process once they got started; and two, how relieved they feel to have everything in place. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind that comes from marking this important item done.
  2. Review your existing plan. If you have an estate plan, have it reviewed. With the new tax code coming in 2018, you may want to make changes to your plan. Going back further, however, Arizona enacted a brand new Trust Code in 2008. If your trust was put in place before then, you may need or want revisions to take advantage of the new laws. What family changes have occurred in your life since you put the plan in place? Family events such as births, deaths or marriages may create a need for revisions. If you have had an increase in your net worth, you may want to review your distributions. If your selected guardian, trustee or personal representative can no longer serve in those important roles, you need to appoint someone new. You may not need a whole new plan, but a few amendments could assure that you have everything you need in your estate plan.
  3. Make sure your plan is complete. I often have clients come in with a Last Will and Testament and tell me that is all they have. A Will is not a complete plan. What happens if you are incapacitated? How will someone make sure your bills are paid, sell your home if needed, talk with the insurance or mortgage company, and sign your tax return (among many other things)? In addition to a Will, you need a Durable Power of Attorney to assure that someone else can act for you. Also, a Will virtually assures your family will need to probate your estate. You need additional items in place to avoid probate. I am happy to discuss those with you and help you get a complete plan in place.
  4. Secure or update health care documents both for you and for your adult children. Everyone over 18 is an adult. Your newly adult child can now make his own decisions. But what happens if he is incapacitated and can’t make those decisions? In order for you to step in, your child needs to give you authority to do so in certain. These include: 1) Heath Care Power of Attorney, which allows another person to make health care decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself; 2) HIPPA Authorizations, which give written consent for doctors to discuss your medical situation with others; and 3) Durable Power of Attorney, which we discussed under item 3. Obviously, you should put these documents in place for yourself as well.
  5. Review and update guardian for minor children. The person you named as guardian for your children when they were 2 and 5 may not be the best choice when they are 12 and 15. The guardians you picked may be in a different situation than when you first selected them, and not able to serve. Your choice for a guardian needs to be revisited from time to time. Having something in place that specifies the guardian for your children is very important. Without that, the court will choose for you without your input.
  6. Review and update beneficiary designations on insurance and retirement plans. Don’t rely on your memory! It is critical that you check with the insurance company or holder of your account to see what they show as your beneficiary. I’m amazed how often a client comes back to tell me their beneficiary or contingent beneficiary was not who they thought. And sometimes a client discovers that the company never received the beneficiary designation or update. Double check!Also, if your beneficiary or a contingent beneficiary is incapacitated or is a minor, set up a trust and name the trust as beneficiary. If you don’t, it’s likely that the court will be involved and overseeing every penny spent. With a trust, you decide who will manage the money and provide for your children.
  7. Talk to your children about your estate plan. You don’t have to show your children your bank account or financial statements, but you can talk about what you are planning and why. The more they understand it, the more likely they are to readily accept it, and the less discord there will be later. Talk about your values and the opportunities that money can provide. Even better, show your values by example—the holidays are an excellent time for families to do charitable work together.

If you are ready to put an estate plan in place or need a review, I offer a complimentary first consultation. Please feel free to call my office at 602-375-6752, email me at Libby@libbybanks.com, or inquire by way of my website, www.LibbyBanks.com.

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