Think Your Estate Plan is Complete?
By: Anthony Cetrangelo, Jr., Esq.
An estate plan is a living set of legal documents that should be reviewed regularly and updated when necessary, but what does “when necessary” mean?
Since the material components of your estate plan rely on others (such as designated fiduciaries and beneficiaries), it is important to consider not only what might happen to you but also what might happen to these individuals. To assist, below is a checklist of a few essential items to keep an eye on after completing your estate plan when conducting a regularly-scheduled review.
Do you have backup decision-makers (fiduciaries)?
A well-thought-out estate plan involves numerous individuals that you designate to carry out your stated preferences, which include your
- Personal Representative. The person you appoint to administer your estate through the probate court process after you pass away.
- Trustee. The person you name to manage your trust’s money and property according to the terms of your trust.
- Power of Attorney/Agent. A chosen individual with the legal authority to handle your financial affairs on your behalf (typically used if you cannot manage your own affairs).
These individuals will exercise considerable control over you and your affairs and must be trusted to act in your stead. However, there may come a time when they are no longer able (or willing) to do what you ask them to do. This is why it is important that you list your first choice, as well as at least one or two backups for each of these positions in your estate planning documents. People’s lives can change dramatically very quickly, and certain changes might impact their ability to serve you.
For example, you might discover that your future Personal Representative recently committed a felony. That person will not be able to serve as your Personal Representative one day, and your Last Will and Testament should be updated to reflect this change. It does not have to be criminal behavior to make you question your decision; it could be something as benign as older age. A person who makes an ideal successor trustee in their 40s and 50s might be less than ideal in their 70s and 80s.
The key takeaway is that you should regularly reevaluate your choice of trusted decision-makers and name backups if you are no longer around to amend your estate planning documents. Alternatives will ensure that there is a more remote chance of a failure in the chain of command that leaves serious end-of-life matters in the hands of the courts.
Our estate planning attorneys can ensure that all of your bases are covered. To schedule an appointment, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 239-344-1358.