families need wills and trustsMy three kids won’t know what Santa (with help from my husband and me) have gotten them until Christmas morning, when they race to the tree to tear open their presents. But on December 25, and on every day of the year, my husband and I have an invisible present for our kids, one we hope and pray they’ll never have to open. But we’ve prepared it for them nevertheless. It’s a will and health care proxy form.

Unlike the presents under the tree, there will be no joy if my kids ever have to open those gifts, but they’re gifts nevertheless. They’re gifts to the kids to secure their future if we’re no longer around. They’re gifts to ourselves, to help us sleep better at night knowing that our medical choices will be clear and respected, in the event we can’t express them any more.

So every year, just as we spend time, after the kids have gone to bed, wrapping their Xboxes and new Ugg boots, we spend time reviewing our estate planning documents.

The good folks at Price Benowitz LLP have helpfully put together a checklist for us to follow as we head into the New Year. By doing that, we can guarantee that our estate planning efforts are up to date. Below is a guest post written by the firm’s trusts and estates partner, Kerri M. Castellini.

Estate Planning For the New Year by Kerri M. Castellini Esq.

One of the best presents you can leave your loved ones this holiday season is the gift of an updated and comprehensive estate plan. Rereading your estate plan every few years and checking in with your estate planning attorney ensures that your documents are current and best express your wishes in the event of incapacity or death.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are reviewing your documents:

  • The location of your documents. Are all of your documents stored in a safe place? Do your fiduciaries and health care agents know where to find your documents in an emergency? If you are storing your documents in your home safe, does someone besides your spouse know how to access the safe? If you store your documents in a safe deposit box, can it be accessed by anyone besides you?
  • The individuals you have named to serve in fiduciary roles or guardians for minor children. Are these individuals still the best choice? Are they experiencing health or financial issues? Is there a better choice for your health care agent, attorney-in-fact, or Personal Representative?
  • Major life events that occurred in the last year. While reviewing your documents, think about the life events that have occurred for you in the last year. Have you recently married or divorced? Have you had a birth or death in the family? Have you purchased a new home or moved to a new state? Have you experienced a significant increase or decrease in your family finances? Have you recently received an inheritance from a loved one? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to check in with your estate planner to determine if your documents need to be adjusted to accommodate your recent life events.
  • Review your trust provisions for your minor children. Ask yourself if your current trust provisions are still the best plan for your children. Does one of your children require more planning to accommodate special needs or medical conditions? Has one of your children exhibited questionable behavior that requires holding their inheritance in trust until they are older?
  • Review your beneficiary designations. Have you changed jobs recently? Reviewing your beneficiary designations to ensure that they are up to date can help avoid unintended beneficiaries and provide for liquidity in the event that you become incapacitated or at your death. Even if you have not changed jobs, collecting all of your beneficiary designations in a safe place can assist your attorney-in-fact or your Personal Representative ensure that your wishes for the distribution of your assets are met.
  • Review your insurance life and disability insurance coverage. Do you have adequate insurance to provide for your spouse and children in the event that you pass away or can physically no longer work? Do you have insurance to care for you in the event you become disabled?

Many practical pitfalls can be resolved by maintaining your estate plan, and updating it to accommodate changes in your life and revisions to the tax laws. As you put away your holiday decorations, dig out your estate planning documents and use your snow day for a little quality reading.

Trusts Lawyer Kerri M. Castellini, has dedicated her career to practicing trust administration and estate planning. She advises clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia and is the estates and trusts partner at Price Benowitz LLP. With offices in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, the firm also offers white collar defense and immigration services.

In D.C., Price Benowitz LLP is located at 409 7th Street, NW #200 Washington DC 20004. You can also call to make an appointment at 202-417-6000.

This is a sponsored guest post