December 31 is quickly approaching, and many people use this time as an opportunity to reflect on the year that is nearly complete. These reflections may include new additions, losses, accomplishments or struggles. One way, though, in which your year-end reflections can provide significant value is by reviewing those changes in your life that have potential impacts on your estate plan, and ensuring that your plan is current, reflecting your life and goals as they now exist. If it has been more than three years, we recommend that you undertake a review of your plan.
Perhaps you’ve married, divorced, lost a loved one to death, gained a new family member or reconnected or reconciled with a long-lost loved one. Many people may recognize the need to update a will or trust to change their asset distribution provisions consistent with their new state of your affairs. Be aware, though, that this is not the only part of your plan that requires consideration. Your plan also includes successor trustees of your trusts and executors of your will. Are the people you named to those important roles when you signed your documents still the ones you prefer to perform those tasks?
Additionally, your plan likely includes a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, a living will and perhaps other documents. Each of those documents names persons or entities who hold a special position of trust, regarding the management either of your wealth or your health care. As with your trustees and/or executors, you should consider whether the ones you’ve named are still your preferred agents.
Furthermore, your plan may include various other assets with death beneficiary designations, like investment accounts, life insurance policies or real estate properties with transfer-on-death deeds. If you have changes that you wish to reflect in your plan, it is important to review all your assets, not just your will or trust. Major court battles have occurred because a person passed away having updated his will, but not his other accounts, unintentionally leaving sizable distributions of wealth to an ex-spouse.
As important as identifying the need for changes, though, is going about making changes the right way. It is wise to consult experienced legal counsel if you decide your plan needs changes. Handwriting changes onto the face of your will or trust, or drafting a document on your own declaring new provisions in one of your estate plan documents, can create many negative outcomes. It very possibly could necessitate an expensive court proceeding to determine the validity of each change. The law may also invalidate those changes, or declare an entire document invalid. State law has specific rules regarding what is needed to make an estate planning document, such as a will, valid. An experienced Wisconsin estate planning attorney can help you ensure that your new documents are properly drafted, signed and witnessed.
To make certain your entire plan is up-to-date, accurately and legally reflecting the current state of your estate planning objectives, talk to estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing not only that you have a plan, but that your plan still creates exactly the legacy that you want. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.
Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.
Always a Good Decision: Health Care Providers Join in Extolling the Benefits of Planning for Incapacity, End-of-Life Choices, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Nov. 13, 2013
Powers of Attorney Serve as an Indispensible Part of Your Estate Plan, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, April 16, 2013
Supreme Court Case Highlights Need for Proper Estate Plan Maintenance, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, March 1, 2013