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We explain to clients that not only do they need to have the legal documents that form an estate plan in place, they also need to take further steps to ensure that their estate plan works.

Your estate plan works if it does what you wanted it to do when you created it. In other words, the picture in your mind matches up with the picture of what really happens when you’re up there sitting on the cloud, looking down at us.

1. Talk with your family.

Let your family know that you have done your estate planning. Give them the contact information for your estate planning attorney and other professional advisors such as your CPA, financial advisor, and insurance agent.

Tell your family where you keep your estate planning documents and make sure that they have access when needed.

2. Organize.

Organize your financial paperwork and keep it in labeled files with your estate planning documents. Don’t make your loved ones play hide and seek. It’s too stressful and time consuming, and things are easy to miss.

Be sure that you write down online accounts (with account numbers, user names, and passwords) and the combination for any fire safes. Be sure to include the safe deposit key as well.

3. Use Docubank

Use Docubank or some other reputable document storage service so that your health care documents such as your living will and health care power of attorney are always available when you need them.

4. Proper asset ownership

Be sure that you own your assets properly. For example, you will only avoid probate if your assets are funded into your trust. And, another example, your will only controls assets in your individual name.

5. Update every three to five years

Review your estate plan, beneficiary designations, and asset ownership every three to five years to ensure that your plan matches your current needs and the current law.

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