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Your Estate Planning Binder Misses You

CunninghamLegal – The Living Trust Lawyers

For some people, a sighting of their estate planning binder is as rare as seeing Bigfoot in line at your local Starbucks. The binder is often initially reviewed and then is stored away for various reasons; to protect the documents, to protect confidential information contained in the documents, or to prevent one from having to think about the possibility of incapacity or their eventual passing.

Estate planning binders have been stored in the back of hall closets, underneath beds, or even inside mini-storage units located miles from the house. While the goal of protecting the documents from harm and protecting the sensitive information within from the curious glances of others is praiseworthy, the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach goes against the responsible action of having had the estate plan created in the first place.

A quality estate plan takes an uncertain future into consideration. For example, naming contingent trustees and contingent beneficiaries addresses the possibility of changing circumstances. Another example of preparing for an uncertain future is that well-drafted estate plans address the possibility that a beneficiary may be receiving government benefits at the time of distribution. This beneficiary would then have their share distributed to a Special Needs Trust in order to augment, and not supplant, assistance they are receiving from the government.

Despite the ability of a quality estate plan to be forward-looking, a proactive approach is needed to ensure that the estate plan still meets the needs and the goals of the client. Is the estate plan still understood? Are there questions? Are changes needed?

Currently, there are many families relying on estate plans that were drafted before Congress dramatically increased the estate tax exemption in 2012. The “A-B Trust” structure that protected a family’s legacy from being eaten away by estate tax is often no longer needed and now can be cumbersome and expensive upon the passing of a married client.

Clients know about their own changing circumstances, but may not be aware of changes in the law. Estate planning attorneys are cognizant of changes in the law, but may not be aware of changes in the lives of all of their clients.

The key is to spend some time with your estate plan. Review the structure of the plan. Review the people you have nominated as your successor trustee, your financial power of attorney, and your health care agent. Review what will occur if you become incapacitated and how your legacy will be distributed upon your passing. As you review your estate plan, have post-it notes handy to write down questions that arise or to mark provisions that you are considering changing.

A dusty estate planning binder is the enemy! Vanquish the enemy today. Review your estate plan in light of your circumstances. Call us if you need help with the review.

Posted by: Doug Reeve. Doug can be contacted in our Camarillo office at (805) 484-2769.