By Benjamin Spiker EBS CONTRIBUTOR
I read a joke the other day that made me chuckle. It simply went: “I can’t believe it’s already time to put off my spring cleaning until next year.” To me, this represented a sentiment I could relate to and thought how it easily applies to many other facts of life, not just dust bunnies and window cleaning. Over years of working with clients to assist them with their planning needs, one item I’ve come across frequently is a client’s lack of attention to their estate plan.
There seems to be a general reluctance by many to think about getting their affairs in order for the “just in case” moments of life. While I always recommend a client speak with their attorney and CPA regarding these items regularly, here are some tips on ways that you can begin to spring clean your estate plan so that you and your family can continue to Enjoy the Ride!
- First and foremost, if you don’t have basic estate planning documents, this should be a priority. Don’t wait. Protect your family and don’t leave important decisions up to state courts. Some of the documents your attorney may recommend you prepare are a will, a living will (advanced healthcare directive), a durable power of attorney, a financial power of attorney and even various types of trusts amongst others.
- Most experts I’ve dealt with recommend reviewing your estate planning documents every three to five years, or sooner if you have a big life event like marriage, divorce, birth of a child or the death of a family member. Also, if you’ve moved to a new state you should consider having have an attorney review your documents to make sure they are still applicable under your new home’s state laws.
- If you have some sort of significant financial change in your life, it’s probably a good time to make sure your documents are in order to protect you and your loved ones. Maybe you’ve sold your business after many years or perhaps bought an investment property or vacation home. Generally, if you’ve had a large change (good or bad) in your estate value you may want to make sure your initial directions are still appropriate.
- Review how your accounts are titled. Should they be in the name of a trust that you have created and then neglected to update the accounts? Are accounts correctly titled in joint name so that a surviving spouse could have easy access to them if an emergency occurred? If you are single, is there someone who should have immediate access to an account if you were to suddenly pass? If so, see if the financial institution you use offers the ability to place Transfer on Death, or Payable on Death instructions on your taxable accounts.
- Review your beneficiary information on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies to make sure that everything is directed where you want it to be upon your passing. One thing to note if you utilize TOD, POD instructions on taxable accounts and name beneficiaries on retirement accounts or insurance policies, these instructions will supersede instructions in your will regarding these assets.
- Do you have a Power of Attorney on file with the institution you work with allowing someone to provide instructions to the institution should you become incapacitated? This is an item that is often overlooked. You can have an attorney draft a financial power of attorney as part of your estate plan or many financial institutions offer their own internal financial power of attorney documents you can complete for free.
While this list is, by no means, exhaustive, it may serve to help you and your family feel and be better prepared for whatever the future may hold. Remember to always keep important documents together and somewhere secure like a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box, or if digital, an encrypted external hard drive or secure cloud-based storage site. Make sure someone is aware of where to find this information and how to get to it when needed. Whatever you do, take the time this spring to get your estate in order, then get back to Enjoying the Ride!
Benjamin D. Spiker is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Shore to Summit Wealth Management. His wealth management career spans more than 22 years and he currently works and lives in Annapolis, MD with his wife, two sons and daughter.
Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network did not assist in the preparation of this report, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network or its affiliates. The material has been prepared or is distributed solely for information purposes and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy any security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy. Trust services available through banking and trust affiliates in addition to non-affiliated companies of Wells Fargo Advisors. Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network and Shore to Summit Wealth Management are not legal or tax advisors. You should consult with your attorney, accountant and/or estate planner before taking any action. Insurance products are available through non-bank insurance agency affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company and underwritten by non-affiliated Insurance Companies. Not available in all states.
Investment products and services are offered through Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (WFAFN), Member SIPC. Shore to Summit Wealth Management is a separate entity from WFAFN. Shore to Summit Wealth Management is located at 105 E. Oak Street, Unit 1A Bozeman, MT 59715 # 406-219-2900.