As the calendar turns to December, the end of 2020 is in sight. Finally. As we prepare for the holidays and a new (and hopefully healthier) year, here are some things that should be on your end of year checklist:
- Complete your estate plan. The end of the calendar year can serve as a great deadline and motivator to end procrastination and complete the long-planned but never completed estate plan. Do not let the fear of making wrong decisions stop you. Documents can always be amended or revised if your life situation or desires chance.
- Review and update your current estate plan. If you already have an estate plan, is it up to date? Family, personal, and financial circumstances change throughout your lifetime. Major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, births, deaths, moving to a new state, or new wealth are just some examples of events that should trigger a reevaluation of your estate plan.
- Check your beneficiary designations. Certain assets pass through beneficiary designations, not through your will. Beneficiary designations are the most common way that life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k) plans, Roth IRAs) pass to your heirs. You should periodically review your various beneficiary designations to ensure everything is current.
- Secure health care documents. This year, more than any other in modern times, has reinforced the importance of having advanced directives, such as a health care power of attorney and a living will. If you become ill, these documents allow your agent to make and communicate medical decisions on your behalf.
- Review guardian selections for minor children. As your children age, you may want to change who you have selected to serve as guardian. You should review and revisit that life changes have not changed who you believe is best suited to care for your children if necessary. If you have not named a guardian who is able and willing to serve as guardian, this could be a decision left to the probate court.
- Review your insurance needs. It is important to ensure that your family is protected. Do you have sufficient life insurance to care for your family if necessary? For auto and home insurance, do you have sufficient coverage in the event of a serious car accident? Or a disaster at home?
- Talk to your agents/guardians/family. You do not need to share the specifics about your estate plan. You do not need to share your bank and financial statements. But it is a good idea to have a conversation in general terms about your plans and why you have planned the way that you have, especially as your children age and mature.
- Get documents for unmarried children over age 18. Your unmarried children over age 18, especially college students, should have, at a minimum, health care documents such as a health care power of attorney and a living will. It is also wise to draft a simple will for your children over age 18.
- Call or email McCarthy Law Office. The end of the year and getting ready for the holidays is stressful. We can help make the estate planning process as painless as possible and scratch this very important task off of your to-do list.