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Decluttering Your Estate: Spring Cleaning Strategies

Spring is the time for refreshing and streamlining your life. It is a time to visit the things that are old or outdated and make sure they align with your current needs. In addition to physically cleaning your home, it is also the perfect time to declutter your estate. It is a good idea to review the parts of your estate plan and get them up to date. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you create and update your estate plan documents. 

Review Your Estate Planning Documents

One of the first steps in decluttering your estate plan is to review all the documents. You will want to evaluate your needs every so often especially when you have any big life changes that occur. Some of the things that warrant a review of your estate are when you get married, get divorced, move out of state, have children, or after the death of a loved one, among others. These matters may require you to make changes to your important documents such as your will, trust, or healthcare directive. 

Make Sure Your Documents are Valid

One of the most common mistakes that a person can make is to have outdated estate documents. An outdated document can result in complications after your death and your assets and property may end up being given to the wrong person. It is helpful to have a knowledgeable estate planning attorney review the documents for accuracy as well as for validity. The signatures must be made in accordance with the law and the documents should be as clear as possible to prevent someone from contesting them later. 

Update Assets

As we go through life, we often experience a change in our assets. We may either gain significantly more assets over time or we might have a reduction in the property we own. When there is a change in your assets, you will need to review your estate plan. The estate plan should be as current as possible. For example, if you sold your home, you will want to change your will to reflect that you no longer own the property. The same holds true if you add property to your estate. 

This is a good time to make a list of your accounts, including online accounts. This will help you determine your assets and catalog them. At the same time, you may find that you have some accounts that you no longer need. If that is the case, you can close them and eliminate them from your estate documents. Your estate planning attorney will help you review your documents for accuracy. 

Review Beneficiaries

When you first make your will and other estate documents, you designate specific beneficiaries. These beneficiaries may no longer be valid. Sometimes, someone you designated has passed away and therefore, you need to make changes to the heirs. Other times, your life may have changed and the person or people you chose as beneficiaries may no longer apply. For instance, if you were to divorce, you would need to remove your former spouse as a beneficiary and make a new designation. Otherwise, if you were to pass away, your former spouse would still receive their part of your estate, even if you really did not intend for that to happen. 

Check Beneficiary Designations on Other Accounts

While you are decluttering your estate, you will also want to review the beneficiary designations on your other assorted documents. If you have an insurance policy, make certain that the beneficiary reflects your current desires. The same holds true for all your accounts, including bank accounts, pensions, and IRA accounts. 

Evaluate the People You Chose for Important Roles

It is critical to periodically check your estate plan for the people you designate for important roles. There are many reasons why you may need or want to change a designated person. Make sure to review these important roles:

  • Executor of your will - The executor of your will is a critical role in handling your estate after your death. The executor should be a person you trust with your affairs. If the person you designated originally is no longer alive or is not a person of importance in your life, you may need to make a change. You might also need to change the executor if the person is no longer able to properly handle the task. 

  • Power of Attorney - The power of attorney may be assigned to take care of your finances or to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Ensure that the power of attorney you chose is a person of trust. Also, make sure that you discuss your expectations with the person you choose so they understand their role. 

  • Trustee - The trustee is a person you choose to be in control of your trust. The trustee has the legal obligation to oversee all the financial matters associated with the trust. The person acts as the fiduciary and makes certain that they handle the trust in accordance with the grantor’s wishes. 

  • Legal Guardian - If you have minor children, you should designate someone to take over as their legal guardian in the event that you pass away. The legal guardian becomes responsible for the care and well-being of the child after your death. If you do not designate a legal guardian, your child could end up in foster care. 

Make Changes in a Legal Manner

When you need to make changes to the documents in your estate plan, you must do so in a manner that is legal. If you do not follow the law, your changes may not take effect as you wish. Depending on the type of document and the extent of changes, you may be able to make an amendment to your documents or create new documents to replace those that are outdated. A codicil is an amendment that supplements your will. Your attorney will advise you as to the best way to go about making changes to your estate planning documents. 

Keep Copies of Your Estate Planning Documents

Once you have updated your estate planning documents, you should make copies of them. Discard any documents that are no longer relevant. Create a folder to hold all the documents and keep it in a place where it is accessible to your loved ones. Include other documents such as property or land deeds and vehicle titles. Make sure to keep the documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof box, or in a locked drawer or cabinet. 

Keeping your estate plan up-to-date is an essential part of having the plan. An estate planning attorney will help guide you through the process and make sure that you have everything in place. To learn more about estate planning, contact us at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 966-4020 to schedule a consultation today. 

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