Raise a glass: To the health of your estate plan

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By Jennifer L. Fulton,

Esquire The Law Offices of Robin Bresky

Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

As we ring in 2020, most of us set goals for living intentionally in the new year.  If you don’t have an estate plan, make it a New Year’s resolution to take care of it for yourself and your family this year. If you have one, now is the time to dust off your estate plan and be sure it is up to date. Here is a list of questions to help you get started.

Has your family composition changed since your last plan was done?  If you have gotten married or divorced, had children or grandchildren, or lost loved ones, it might be time to make some changes.

Will your younger children and grandchildren to have someone to help them with their inheritance? Certainly a minor child cannot receive an inheritance without having a responsible adult care for that money until they are old enough to receive it outright.  There are reasons you may not wish for young adults to receive an inheritance outright as well. They are still developing their work ethic. They may need protection from creditors, substance abuse or addiction, or divorce. They may just need to “grow into” a little more maturity before having access to their money. Or you may wish for your trusted financial advisor to help manage the money for them. All these can be accomplished in your estate plan.

Have you planned for your incapacity?  We are living longer now, but sometimes that means we may need help to take care of things we used to do ourselves. A Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, a HIPAA release and waiver, Will and fully funded Revocable Living Trust work together so this can happen. This year, review to ensure you have the newest version of these documents, and that your named fiduciaries are still the most appropriate people for you.

Has the law changed since your last estate plan was drafted?  Or have you moved to a new state since then? Your personal representative might not qualify to serve under the laws of your new home state. Allow an attorney to review your estate plan.

Have you built a team of professionals?  If so, are they working together?  Your financial planner, accountant and attorney can work together to plan for long term care in advance, maximize the benefit of your retirement planning for yourself and your beneficiaries, and determine whether lifetime gifts or advanced planning will be of benefit to you.

Have you introduced your children to your team of professionals and familiarized them with your estate plan?  Letting them know how it all works together can avoid misunderstandings and disharmony later, and make it easier for them to make important post-death elections.  Your children are more likely to honor your wishes if they understand the reasons for them.

Have you pre-planned for your funeral and final disposition? This step is so helpful to your loved ones after you pass, and is often overlooked. It allows them to know what your choices are at a time when decision making is difficult, and if you pay for the services in advance, you get exactly what you want.

Jennifer L. Fulton, Esq. is an attorney at The Law Offices of Robin Bresky (www.breskylegal.com)