Amending Your Estate Plan

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Where Do I Keep My Estate Plan?

Where Do I Keep My Estate Plan?

Where Do I Keep My Estate Plan?

New clients of Legacy Law Center often arrive for our first conference with their existing estate plan documents. More often than not, these documents are out of order and have the look of paper that has never been read. They are sometimes still in envelopes that have never been opened. So we spend the first five minutes of the office unbundling all of these documents to see what these documents say.

A policy at our office is that finished estate plans are always put in binders and every document is tabbed in the binder so that it can be easily found. Part of our final instructions also informs the client where to keep their documents.

Those instructions are always the same. The originals in the binder should always be kept in a safe place, and either locked up or not locked up depending on the client’s preference and circumstances. Some clients want them locked away and that works fine as long as the person named in the document as power of attorney / executor / trustee has a copy and knows how to get the locked up originals.

I am not a huge fan of safe deposit boxes at banks. For one thing, if you need to get those documents in a pinch and it’s after business hours or a Sunday, you’re out of luck. Another issue is the cost. I just don’t think the utility of a safe deposit box is worth the cost. Clients can use safe deposit boxes, however, if they want to. The better bet is to have them tucked away in a safe at home. That will likely be cheaper, still provide security and resolve the issue of obtaining the documents at any time.

At our office, we also give the clients a set of copies and a PDF scan of the signed estate plan. The latter version makes it very easy to get a copy to the people they have chosen to be in charge in the future. All our clients have to do is forward the PDF to them via email or if they prefer, on a thumb drive or CD. Whatever works for them.

We also always advise our clients that they should immediately provide a copy of their signed healthcare power of attorney and healthcare directive to their primary care physician (their “PCP”) and any specialists they see (cardiologist or neurologist for example). A copy of the documents should always be out in a place where it can be grabbed quickly, such as a kitchen drawer or a file in a home office. Finally, we advise clients to put a copy in their car. If you get a call that your spouse has been taken to the hospital and you are at work, all you have to do is drive to the hospital. Bring a copy when you travel as well. Let’s face it, accidents are more likely to happen when you are trying out scuba diving in Aruba than when you are sitting at home reading the paper. So bring powers of attorney documents with you on your trip.

Your documents can be changed at any time as long as you have capacity, so keep in mind if you have a falling out with your executor or your power of attorney that you can put someone else in charge if you change the documents. It’s a very easy process and more affordable than most people assume.

The bottomline is that you should protect your estate plan from prying eyes and being lost by putting them in the place you think is best. If that’s the bank or a drawer at your house, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you know where they are and that the people in charge of your life if you can’t be have a copy as well. If you do that, you’ll ensure that your estate plan can be followed as you originally intended.

FREE Missouri Estate Planning Guide

FREE Missouri Estate Planning Guide

Free Missouri Estate Planning Guide

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE MISSOURI ESTATE PLANNING GUIDE:  Estate Planning Guide

Changing an estate plan…

Changing Estate Plan

 

 

 

 

I spend a good amount of time each month reviewing existing estate plans of former clients and non-clients. Very often the estate plans I am reviewing are those of    a pair of empty nest parents, who want me to review the wills they created when their first born child was born. This is a very common scenario and I applaud these people for understanding that their estate plan needs change over time.

Here are just a few examples of when it’s a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed.

1. Your old plan was drafted when you either had no children or before all of your children were born.  This is a common scenario and one in which we need to change your estate plan, as we want to make sure no one is accidentally cut out of your estate by reason of being born after you created your estate plan.

2.  You have created significantly more wealth since your initial estate plan.  This is a good problem to have, but one in which we need to make sure your estate plan still accounts for having a larger estate.  Chances are it doesn’t.

3.  We have a family member with special needs.  Means tested benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security can be lost if a child or other designated beneficiary has special needs but receives an inheritance which disqualifies them from the benefits.  The fix for that is called a Special Needs Trust.  If you have a beneficiary who has special needs, you need to review your existing estate plan to make sure the disability they have is properly planned for and incorporated into your estate plan.

4.   You have since divorced.  Statistically, half of the marriages in this country end up in divorce.  So there are a lot of broken estate plans sitting around.  There are also beneficiary designations which need to be changed.

5.  The people you named to be in charge are no longer in good health or you have lost touch.  Twenty and thirty year old estate plans often run into this problem.  If you created an estate plan that named your good friends as the guardians of your children or the executors of your estate and for whatever reason you are no longer good friends with those people, it’s time to make a change.  Maybe Aunt Phyllis is too old to be burdened with serving as your durable power of attorney.  Maybe your brother Greg, who used to be a bachelor with plenty of free time, can no longer serve as the trustee of your kid’s trust because he has kids of his own.  All of these scenarios are common and a major cause of needed changes to an estate plan.

Whatever the reason, it is important that your estate plan changes as your needs changes.  Our office will ordinarily review estate plans for free and can usually do so after reviewing the existing documents and a consultation.