Estate Planning Basics: Tying the Whole Plan Together

Part 10 of a series breaking down the process of helping clients set up Trusts by breaking the issues down into smaller, individual topics, enabling the adviser and client to take the necessary steps, and get the plan moving. 

At the beginning of the series on Wills, the the main question driving the estate plan was “What does the client want to accomplish?” Now we have come full circle. Our client has put in place a Will, Power of Attorney, and a Trust that is correctly funded. But that isn't necessarily the end of the estate planning process. There are many things that change throughout life: where you live, marriage, divorce, births, deaths, changes in wealth, changes to the law, not to mention that fact that we all get older and our needs and goals change. An estate plan is not a static thing. It requires the client to revisit the intended goals. Are they still the same? Have circumstances made that plan less than accurate, or worse yet, contradictory to the new reality?

To help the client get started with reviewing the existing estate plan, here are a couple of checkpoints (and this is by no means an exhaustive list):

Power of Attorney
  • How long ago was the Power of Attorney executed?
  • Has the client moved to a different state?
  • Who was named as the attorney-in-fact? Is that person still capable of fulfilling the responsibilities?  Is s/he reasonably convenient to reach?
  • Does the Power of Attorney allow for gifts to be made on the client’s behalf?
  • Can the attorney-in-fact access the client’s digital assets?

These questions need to be asked periodically but just how often? Well, that is a more difficult question.  Ideally, a client would review the estate plan and his/her own facts and circumstances every year. Perhaps as part of the turn to a new year, when the dreaded 1040 is signed, or some other fixed, easy to remember day or event. An annual review may be hard for a client to accomplish. Changes in life events are a good touchstone for a review but we need to remember that these life events may not be pleasant ones, and may result in the client having an even more difficult time addressing the need to make changes. What we need to do, is to remind our clients that it is important to conduct these self-reviews as often as we can. Sometimes it will fail, and the client will miss the chance to update and fix an imperfect plan. But sometimes it will click with a client, and the process of renewing the estate plan will begin.

You can view the first series of Wills and Probate Administration here and reach out to Dan with any questions. Our attorneys are always ready, willing, and able to meet and discuss any questions, help you articulate your plan and goals, determine the best plan to accomplish them, and then implement it. You will find that, by taking those small steps, the problem that used to lead to procrastination and uncertainty has been addressed and resolved. Learn more about Mansour Gavin’s Estate Planning & Probate group or contact us today.

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