It’s Time to Take the Reins!

August 27, 2020

It’s time to take the reins of your estate plan and secure your personal representative.

We can think of our estate plan as an extension of our larger life. Whether you’re planning to pass your assets to a beneficiary or your favorite charity, having an estate plan helps ensure our intended goals will come to fruition.

Every good estate plan begins with a personal representative – the person we appoint in our will who will settle our estate and carry out our last wishes. Having an estate plan in place and a personal representative chosen to manage and distribute your estate is the best way to reach your estate planning goals. Once you’ve selected your personal representative, notify them! You will want to share a list of your assets with them and explain the beneficiary designation for each asset. Having conversations around the end of life will make this transition better for all.

Roadmap for the future

Having an estate plan in place provides your personal representative a roadmap to manage and distribute your estate according to your estate planning goals. Here are a few considerations to help you and your personal representative manage your estate planning in 2020.

Look forward: recognize the living expenses and your personal needs to live a fulfilling and comfortable life.  

Say you want to live in your home for as long as possible rather than move to an assisted living facility. Here are some of the costs involved with remaining in your home:

  • Retrofitting your home to accommodate your evolving needs.
  • A gardener, housekeeper and cook to pick-up some of the tasks that you may have put down.
  • An engagement buddy to spend time with you at the museum, movies or picnicking in your yard.
  • Nursing help on a part-time or full-time basis.

The emotional and financial costs of each of these choices should be discussed regularly with your personal representative and your financial advisor.

Creating a plan for the future requires looking to the past

Once you lock-down your personal representative, set an annual date to review your estate plan and revise it as tax laws and regulations change. For instance, with the recent passing of the SECURE Act, it will be important to review how retirement accounts are passed to your heirs. It is easier to tweak your estate plan today rather than wait until a life event forces you to create a less than ideal plan.

Look backward: understand the documents that make up the foundation of the estate plan.

To have a current sense of your estate plan, your personal representative should have a pretty good idea of your lifestyle and the documents that you have had drafted on your behalf. Here are some items that should be reviewed regularly:

  • Identify a safe storage space for estate planning documents, outside of a safe deposit box.  
  • Share account numbers and passwords to access property.
  • List monthly expenses, including prescriptions and health care provider contact information.
  • Appraise assets, businesses and investment property.
  • Share a central checking account for bill paying.
  • Review life insurance policies death benefit amounts, ownership and beneficiaries.

The more detailed your document list, the better. Pay special attention to asset values, ownership and beneficiary designations.

Put it all together

Tweak the estate plan annually as tax laws, regulations and lifestyle needs change so that you can better meet your estate planning goals.

By creating a realistic estate plan, you’ll increase the likelihood that you will actually live out the rest of your life according to your wishes and that your estate plan will continue to represent your desires.

It’s time to take the reins and nail down your personal representative.

This is the year to make your estate plan work for you, rather than the other way around. We want to help you make that happen.

Get in touch with SWM Connect today

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