Your estate plan is not a set-it-and-forget-it document. Your estate plan needs to be reviewed periodically to ensure that it is aligned with changes in your life and the law.
There are a handful of big red flags that indicate that your estate plan is either out-of-date or in dire need of review, according to the Wilmington (NC) Insights’ recent article, “Signs Your Estate Plan Needs a Lift.” If any of these ring a bell, you’ll want to make an appointment to meet with your estate planning attorney—and soon!
Unsigned documents. These aren’t enforceable until they’ve been properly executed. Poor planning and out-of-date documents may be worse than no plan at all, so be certain that all of your estate planning documents are up-to-date and have been fully executed. The executed documents should then be placed in a lock-box or given to a trusted advisor.
Untitled or incorrectly titled assets. If you are using a trust, you have to follow through with your plan by titling assets in the name of the trust. If you fail to do so, assets outside of the trust will be disposed of by your will or, in the case of life insurance, to the named beneficiary.
Putting family members in charge. Naming family members as power holders can create problems. Naming family members as your executor or trustee needlessly puts them in the line of fire. Allowing a third party to take the heat in carrying out your wishes, may not be popular with some family members.
Leaving assets outright to beneficiaries. This inheritance you wanted to pass to your heirs can be unprotected from creditors, divorcing spouses, and lawsuits. This is critical if you have an heir who has physical or other disabilities. He or she should have a Special Needs Trust.
Beneficiary designations. These need to be up to date. Review your beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, 401(k) plan, 403(b) accounts, annuities and IRAs. Changes in the lives of your family such as deaths, marriages, births, divorces, and the like could have a big impact on your estate plan.
Lack of medical care/end of life planning documents. If your estate plan does not include a Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, or HIPPA forms, both you and your family may be in for a terrible experience. These documents will permit designated people to make decisions for your care, in the event that you are incapacitated. Not having them in place, makes a difficult situation even harder for those you love.
Reference: Wilmington (NC) Insights (November 29, 2016) “Signs Your Estate Plan Needs a Lift”