The day before a game, most football teams have a practice where they do a "walk through" of their plays. After practicing most of the week in full pads and at full speed, the players and coaches are able to focus on position, timing and sequence without pads and reduced speed. Many potential missteps are avoided on game day by walking through the game in advance.
Similarly, a "walk through" of your estate plan now can prevent big problems later.
For starters, your estate plan is not just a static pile of paper (and neither is your family or your assets). Accordingly, you need to continuously review it. This will help keep your estate plan up to date with your wishes, which can and will change over time.
We recommend reviewing your own plan at least every two years and we actually send a reminder letter to each of our clients in October of odd-numbered years.
The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog recently published a list of such fundamentals in an article titled "Estate Planning To-Do List."
The list includes the following:
- Make Exclusion Gifts Early - Are you considering any gifts to loved ones using the $14,000 per donee annual gift exclusion? It is best to make any exclusion gifts early in the year for estate tax purposes just in case something happens to you during the year.
- Fund Trusts - Are there are any assets you acquired in the last year that are not part of your trust? If yes, then make sure you re-title them into the trust without delay. An exception would be any retirement funds or annuities. Consult with experienced counsel for advice.
- Review Beneficiary Designations - Make sure all of your documents have the right beneficiaries, especially retirement funds, annuities and life insurance.
- Check Fiduciary Designations - Make sure all your financial decision-makers (e.g., agents, personal representatives and trustees) are capable and willing to act in that capacity if something were to happen to you. [Hint: If you appointed your cousin as your trustee and he is doing 10 to 20 in "the big house" for embezzlement, then you might want to come up with a substitute.]
These are just a few of many walk through items an experienced estate planning attorney will help you check during formal review of your plan.
After all, you want to avoid any tragic estate planning "fumbles" when it is time for your estate plan to score.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (January 28, 2015) "Estate Planning To-Do List."