We all have at least one resolution we make each year, even though we may pretend otherwise (myself included). Usually at the top of the list: losing weight, joining a gym, and cleaning out the closet that you’ve been meaning to get to since last year’s resolution (me again).In a quest to start out the year with our best foot forward, turn over a new leaf, climb every mountain, forge every stream, and follow every rainbow, it’s nice to know there are some more easily attainable goals that may not provide adventure, but can certainly bring peace of mind.
Know what you have for planning. Whether it’s a Living Trust, a Will, or nothing at all (hey, we’ve all been there), make sure your Trustee or Personal Representative knows where to find your legal documents. If you don’t have a plan, now’s the time for that leaf turning we talked about earlier.
- SPELL IT OUT
The job of Trustee or Personal Representative can be a daunting one. The greatest favor you can do for your Trustee or Personal Representative is to create a roadmap of your assets. Assets change over the years, and a list of your current assets and where to find them will help your Trustee to do the job you’ve asked them to do. Account numbers as well as the names of your financial advisors, CPA, and attorney are especially helpful.
Just like a car needs maintenance from time to time (me again), so does your plan. Changes in the law may affect your plan. Take the time for a review of your current plan. Assets change over the years, as do life’s circumstances. Grandkids may be in the picture now, or a new home. As your life changes, your plan should change with it. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a universal truth.
Your plan shouldn’t be only about dying – it should be about living your life as well. Health Care Directives to express your wishes when you can’t and Powers of Attorney to deal with financial matters are essential lifetime documents. Designation of a Disability Trustee and guardians for your kids will serve you well in the event you become disabled.
- TAKE INVENTORY
Not of your life, although that’s not a bad idea either, but of your assets and how they are titled. If you have a Living Trust (hint, hint), make sure all of your accounts and real estate are titled in the trust. Check the beneficiary designations on all non-trust assets (such as life insurance and qualified retirement accounts), making sure they are in place and accurate. Living trusts and beneficiary designations are wonderful tools for avoiding probate in the future.
Final note: Use 2019 to get organized (or if you are that rare bird who already is, please contact me… I could use some tips). Checking these 5 easy items off your list will be a good start to a great new year.
Contributing Author: Amy L. Marble
Amy was raised in North Dakota. After graduating from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1996, she moved with her husband to his home state of Minnesota. Initially practicing in the field of Personal Injury law, Amy branched out to start her own practice in Estate Planning in 2003. In 2009, she stepped away from the practice of law to spend more time raising their family.