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Will Your Estate Plan Work when Your Family Needs It?

Let’s say you have taken the time to establish an estate plan. Maybe you found a lawyer to create planning documents for you or maybe you went the DIY route. You may be tempted to put the documents away in a drawer and never think of them again.

The problem is, estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal.

In fact, if it’s not regularly updated when your assets, family situation, and the laws change, your plan may be worthless. Failing to update your plan can create its own set of problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’d never created a plan at all. Here is a story that illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan.

A Game-Changing Realization

Jim passed away last year. He had created an estate plan —or at least thought he had. He paid a law firm to prepare an estate plan for him, so his family wouldn’t be stuck dealing with the hassles and expense of probate court or drawn into needless conflict with his ex-wife.

And yet, after his death, that’s exactly what happened. His family was forced to go to court in order to claim assets that were supposed to pass directly to them. And on top of that, they had to deal with his ex-wife and her attorneys in the process.

Jim’s family couldn’t understand it. If Jim had paid the law firm to create an estate plan, why was this happening?

It turned out that not only had his planning documents not been updated, but his assets were not even properly titled.

Jim had created a trust so that when he died, his assets would pass directly to his family, and they wouldn’t have to endure probate. But some of his assets had never been transferred into the name of his trust from the beginning. And since there was no updated inventory of his assets, there was no way for his family to even confirm everything he had when he died. To this day, one of his accounts is still stuck in the Florida Department of Unclaimed Property.

Will Your Plan Work When Your Family Needs It?

We hear similar stories from our clients all the time. In fact, outside of not creating any plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works. Yet by that point, it’s too late, and the loved ones left behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.

We recommend reviewing your plan annually to make sure it’s up to date, and immediately amend your plan following events like divorce, deaths, births, and inheritances.

Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, we aren’t just here to serve you—we’re here to serve your entire family. We take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process, so everyone affected by your plan is aware of what your latest planning strategies are and why you made the choices you did.

Unfortunately, many estate planning firms do not engage with the whole family when creating estate plans, leaving the spouse and other loved ones largely out of the loop. We believe the planning process works best when all of your loved ones are educated and engaged. We can even facilitate regular family meetings to keep everyone up-to-date.

Built-In Systems to Keep Your Plan Current

Our legal services are designed to make estate planning as streamlined and worry-free as possible for both you and your family. We don’t just create legal documents and put the onus on you to ensure they stay updated and function as intended—we take care of that on our end.

Maintaining a regularly updated inventory of all your assets is one of the most vital parts of keeping your plan current. We’ll not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory; we’ll make sure the inventory stays consistently updated throughout your lifetime.

When it comes to properly titling assets held by a trust, when you create a trust, it’s not enough to list the assets you want it to cover. You have to transfer the legal title of certain assets—real estate, bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts—to the trust, known as “funding” the trust, in order for them to be disbursed properly.

While most lawyers will create a trust for you, few will ensure your assets are properly funded. We’ll not only make sure your assets are properly titled when you initially create your trust, we’ll also ensure that any new assets you acquire over the course of your life are inventoried and properly funded to your trust. This will keep your assets from being lost, as well as prevent your family from being inadvertently forced into court because your plan was never fully completed.

For the Love of Your Family

Our planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. In fact, we’ll develop a relationship with your family that lasts not only for your lifetime, but for the lifetime of your children and their children, if that’s your wish.

We’ll support you in not only creating a plan that keeps your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity, but we’ll also ensure your plan is regularly updated to make certain that it works and is there for your family when you cannot be. Contact us today to get started.