While you are staying home during the coronavirus outbreak, here are five things you can do to update your estate planning –
- Check your beneficiary designations. When you made your Will, your estate planning attorney probably advised you to update the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and insurance policies. These designations, not the Will, often control where those accounts go when you pass away, but many people fail to complete this important step. Contact your account holders to check and update this critical information, and consult your attorney if you need assistance.
- Be sure your revocable living trust is funded. Some people set up a revocable trust to avoid probate at death, but never get around to putting assets into the trust. This can defeat the purpose of the trust. Review how each of your assets (e.g., home, bank accounts, other property) is titled and take steps to move them to the trust if appropriate.
- Review your estate planning documents and identify updates. Pull out your estate planning documents and read them over. Do you want to change where your assets go when you pass away? Are you happy with the people you appointed to act on your behalf? Has your marital status changed, or has your net worth increased significantly? These are only a few of the reasons why an estate plan might need updating. If you see needed changes, contact your attorney and discuss whether he or she can help you make them now or set up a plan for a post-quarantine update.
- Complete your “gift list.” In Washington, your Will may contain a reference to a “gift list,” and a blank list may be attached to the back of your Will. Here, you can list specific items of personal property (things, not money) and the person you want to receive each item when you pass away. You can leave your diamond earrings to a favorite niece, your climbing equipment to your brother, your vinyl collection to your best friend, and so on. You do not need a notary or lawyer to complete the list – just sign and date it, and be sure to keep it with your Will. If you have questions, check with your attorney.
- Begin the estate planning process. If you have never worked with an attorney to prepare a Will, trust, or powers of attorney, a perfect stay-at-home project could be to start the process. The attorney will most likely have you fill out questionnaires detailing your family and financial situation and stating your wishes, and then will set up a review session with you. At Salmon Bay Law Group, we are consulting and communicating with clients by phone, email, regular mail, and video conference. At times we can even help clients complete the process by arranging signings of these critical documents, using appropriate safety precautions.
Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post and throughout this website is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice. The information provided is based in a general way on the laws of the state of Washington. The laws of other states pertaining to estate planning vary widely. No attorney-client relationship results from the reader’s use of this blog post or website and the information it contains or from contacting Salmon Bay Law Group, PLLC, via this website.