Make the Most of Quarantine: Review Your Estate Plan!
Social distancing and self-quarantining are all the rage right now. During these days of extra family time, there has never been a better time to create, review, or update your estate plan. For many, estate planning is always on the to-do list but constantly finds itself relegated to the backburner. This spring, resolve to check this important item off your list.
If you don’t have an estate plan, talk to an estate planning attorney about a will and trust, as well as a financial power of attorney and health care directives. Having an estate plan in place is an important component of ensuring your family’s long-term success.
If you do have estate planning documents, make sure the plan is current. The following are some estate planning-related matters to keep up to date:
- Fiduciaries. When executing an estate plan, it’s always important to name fiduciaries (g., trustees, executors, health care representatives) who make the most sense at that point in time. But as circumstances change over years, the individuals who are a good fit for certain roles may change as well. Perhaps parents have aged out as trustees, or perhaps once-young, now-grown children now make the most sense as health care representatives. In reviewing your estate plan, it’s important to assess whether the right people are in the right jobs. Changing fiduciaries is often a quick and simple process, but up-to-date fiduciaries will go a long way to ensure efficient and effective implementation of your estate plan when the time comes.
- Disposition of Assets. As children grow and families change, the disposition of your estate plan may change as well. When you review your estate plan, it’s important to consider the current circumstances of your beneficiaries, and perhaps also consider what has changed over the years. If your children are financially capable and stable, perhaps it makes sense to distribute assets directly to them rather than hold assets in trust. For other children, maybe it makes sense to retain assets in trust where they should be protected from the child’s future creditors. Every family is different, but you should discuss your situation with your estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan is best tailored to your current goals.
- Real Estate. If you own real estate, and particularly if you have moved since your estate plan was last updated, you should consult with your estate planning attorney as to the need for any real estate-specific documents. In Ohio, property owners can execute and record a transfer-on-death designation affidavit to name a trust or individual beneficiaries to receive the property at the owner’s death in order to avoid probate. In Kentucky, although a similar transfer-on-death of real estate is not currently permissible, transferring real property directly to a trust is sometimes advisable. In both states, proper probate avoidance for real estate greatly simplifies an estate plan following an individual’s death, and keeping your estate planning attorney apprised of any new real estate purchases is an important step.
- Beneficiary Designations. For property other than real estate, probate avoidance is often a simple but overlooked step in the years following execution of an estate plan. In Ohio, assets that avoid probate are generally not subject to the decedent’s creditors and usually transfer to or for the benefit of intended beneficiaries much quicker than probate assets. To minimize the assets that may be subject to probate (which is a public court process), proper beneficiaries should be designated for each asset to receive the asset upon the owner’s death, outright of probate. Reviewing beneficiary designations with your financial advisor and/or estate planning attorney on a regular basis is an important step in maintaining your estate plan and ensuring your goals are carried out.
- Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives. Although fiduciaries named in financial powers of attorney and healthcare directives should always be modified at the time the change is desired, the documents themselves – even with no changes – should be updated at least every five to seven years. For financial powers of attorney, many banks and other institutions will give less scrutiny and legal review to newer powers of attorney than they would older documents, sometimes saving days or weeks at a time when the document is needed most. For healthcare directives, many states, including Ohio and Kentucky, offer standard documents that are updated by the state from time to time. In both cases, newer forms generally reflect recent changes to the law and are more effective when called upon.
Our Private Client Services Group at KMK Law is ready and willing to help you get the right plan in place for you and your family.
KMK Law articles and blog posts are intended to bring attention to developments in the law and are not intended as legal advice for any particular client or any particular situation. The laws/regulations and interpretations thereof are evolving and subject to change. Although we will attempt to update articles/blog posts for material changes, the article/post may not reflect changes in laws/regulations or guidance issued after the date the article/post was published. Please consult with counsel of your choice regarding any specific questions you may have.
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