A new year always brings the sad reviews of notable personalities who have died in the past year. Two notable movie stars – Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker – provide a cautionary tale on the importance of keeping your estate plan and will up to date. In Hoffman’s case, his 2004 will had never been updated and he had two children after it was created. Walker’s 2001 will had also never been updated to reflect the changes in his life.
Conducting an estate plan review whenever something major changes in your life – like a birth, death or divorce – is key to ensuring your will remains valid and that the people you love are taken care of in the way you intend. Here are some additional steps you can take to be sure your estate plan remains valid:
Make it easy to find. It is not uncommon for people to file away a will and estate plan in a safety deposit box, which makes it inaccessible to family without a court order.
Make wise choices in executors. Not only should you name more than one person as executor – you will want backups if for some reason your primary choice cannot serve – you should also inform each person that you have chosen them to ensure their willingness to take on the job.
Avoid contradictions in your estate plan. Be sure that your will does not contradict your choices for beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance policy, etc.
Name guardians. If you have minor children, one of the most important functions of your will is to name a guardian. If that person cannot serve, you will need to have named a second choice for guardian to ensure the future of your children does not end up in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or the choices you might have made for them. We have a free report we can send you on six common mistakes parents make when naming guardians – mistakes you definitely want to avoid! Just contact our office for a free copy of this valuable report.
Beware of unintentional disinheritances. If you are remarried and have children from your first marriage you wish to provide for as well as your current spouse, you will want to make those provisions for them in your estate plan. If you wish to intentionally disinherit someone, you should specifically state your intentions in your will.
Get professional guidance. Wills and other estate planning documents downloaded from the Internet will not be tailored to the specific needs of your family. You should seek out the experience of a qualified attorney to help you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your family’s financial future.
The best way to learn about protecting your family is to talk with a Personal Family Lawyer® about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones.