A well-executed estate plan is like a finely-tuned machine, requiring regular maintenance to ensure seamless operation in the face of life's uncertainties. Your clients' estate plans should be revisited every year or two to ensure it's still aligned with their current circumstances and intentions. This article presents a comprehensive checklist to guide you through the captivating process of reviewing client estate plans.
1. Updated Information
First things first, it's crucial to keep all the vital information in an estate plan up to date. Double-check contact details, beneficiary information and the specifics of appointed representatives. Maintaining current information is not only essential but ensures the flawless execution of the plan.
2. Legal Documents
Ensure the legitimacy of your client's legal documents, including their will, trusts and power of attorney. Safeguarding a legacy hinges on these documents' legal soundness.
3. Beneficiaries and Distribution of Assets
Take a closer look at your client's beneficiaries and how they envision the distribution of their assets. Life's twists and turns, such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces, may necessitate adjustments in beneficiary choices.
4. Executor, Trustee and Guardian Appointments
Confirm that the individuals appointed to fulfill your client's wishes are still willing and capable of carrying out their roles.
5. Guardianship for Minor Children
If your clients have minor children, it's essential to revisit their choice of a guardian. Ensure that the selected guardian is still the best fit for the children's well-being.
6. Assets and Liabilities
Update your client's list of assets to incorporate any recent acquisitions and account for outstanding debts or liabilities. A comprehensive inventory is key to an organized estate plan.
7. Digital Assets and Online Accounts
In this digital age, don't overlook your client's online presence. Consider how to manage or transfer digital assets, such as social media accounts and cryptocurrency wallets.
8. Business Interests
If your client is a business owner or has business interests, review the plan for managing or transferring these assets to ensure they align with the client's current intentions.
9. Healthcare Directives
Review healthcare directives, including living wills and healthcare proxies, to ensure they still accurately reflect the client's medical wishes.
10. Power of Attorney
Evaluate your choices for financial and legal power of attorney (even if it's you), making any necessary changes to ensure that your clients affairs will be managed according to their preferences.
11. Charitable Contributions
Confirm that the charitable organization(s) your client selected still align with their values and intentions for any planned donations.
12. Estate Tax Considerations
Stay informed about changes in tax laws (even if just the very basics) that might affect your client's estate and consider (or team up with another professional to determine) any potential impact on the plan.
13. Real Estate and Property Ownership
Verify the details of property ownership and how your client plan to transfer or bequeath real estate within their estate plan.
14. Long-Term Care Planning
If your client has made provisions for long-term care, assess their relevance and effectiveness in light of any changes in the client's health or circumstances.
15. Family Dynamics
Consider any shifts in family dynamics or relationships that might necessitate adjustments to the estate plan.
16. Estate Planning Goals
Revisit your clients overarching goals and objectives to ensure that their estate plan still aligns with their vision for the future.
17. Legal and Financial Professionals
Ensure that any professionals (again, including yourself) who assisted in creating your client's estate plan are still available and well-suited to their needs.
18. Witnesses and Signatures
Verify that all necessary signatures and witnesses are in place on your client's legal documents.
19. Review Schedule
Establish a routine for reviewing your client's estate plan going forward, whether annually or every few years, to keep it current with their evolving life circumstances and any legal changes.
20. Communicate Changes
Finally, once you have updated your client's estate plan, communicate these changes to relevant parties, including family members, beneficiaries and appointed representatives.
Estate planning is an ever-evolving process that requires attention. Regular reviews will ensure that your client's plan remains in sync with their life and accurately reflects their wishes. Consider consulting with other professionals to help effectively navigate this essential task. Your client's legacy deserves nothing less.