Year’s Planning 2012
By Tim Barkley
With each new year comes
a new opportunity to consider your estate plan and make
sure it is up-to-date – or to make one if you don’t have
on already! Because we are time-bound mortals, the change
of seasons reminds us of changes in our lives and of their
Have you ever drafted
documents at all? If not, you should know that the State’s
choices on your behalf are not usually the best ones for you
or your loved ones. That should not come as a surprise, but if
you fail to plan, you have made the government's decisions
Can you find the originals of
your documents? Could your family find them? If the originals
of your documents cannot be found after your death, your plan
will be for naught, and your affairs will proceed as if you
had no plan – using the State’s plan, with all of its flaws.
If you have left your
documents with your attorney, consider calling your attorney
to be sure he or she still has them. You might decide to pick
them up and store them yourself – attorneys close their
practices and go out of business, change phone numbers and
move their offices just like every other businessperson, and
it would be more than just inconvenient if your documents
couldn't be located when you needed them most.
Have you reviewed your
documents recently? Are your fiduciaries – the people you
named to serve your loved ones and manage your assets in the
event of a tragedy – still alive? Do you still know them?
Would they still be willing to serve?
Are your beneficiary
designations up-to-date on wills, trusts, insurance, and
retirement assets? Do you know where to find your
beneficiaries? Could your fiduciaries find your beneficiaries?
It’s a shame to waste money trying to find people after the
death of the only person who knew how to locate them. It’s an
even greater shame to have money going to the wrong people
when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Consider your choice of
guardian for children or others under your care – disabled
spouse, parents, minor grandchildren. Are the persons you have
named still the best for the situation? In this most crucial
of areas of responsibility, be sure you have discharged it
Be sure to include a list of
updated beneficiary and fiduciary addresses, telephone numbers
and other contact information with your documents. Include a
list of your assets, including custodians, account numbers and
contact information. This step alone can save a great deal of
time when you are unable to help locate them yourself, and
when time might be of the essence.
Review amounts of insurance.
Do you remember what the amount of insurance was to cover? Is
that amount still adequate? Is it too much? As our lives
change, so do our responsibilities. The amount projected to
pay off the mortgage, raise and educate the kids, and
supplement the surviving spouse’s retirement may not be needed
as you approach retirement with the house mostly paid off, the
kids finishing college and retirement income your pressing
need. Conversely, the amount you took out when you graduated
college and were still unmarried without children might not be
enough now to protect those you love most.
Review your retirement plan.
Are you investing enough? Are the earnings assumptions still
correct? You might need to save more, invest differently, plan
to work longer or take a part-time job upon retirement. Better
to determine that now, as unpleasant as it might seem, than to
find out only after bad assumptions lead to a bankrupt
Talk to your parents, and to
your adult children. Have they created and updated their plan?
Or are they remiss in this regard? Encourage them to take this
If your planning needs
updating, make it happen this year. Consult with your
professional advisors, and make sure that your planning meets