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Mar 2019
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March 08, 2019

Make a New Year's Resolution for Your Estate Plan

Top 5 To-Dos in 2019 That Will Benefit Your Family Later

The start of a fresh, new year often inspires us to create a few resolutions we intend to carry out over the next 12 months. Perhaps reviewing your estate planning was not top of mind when you made your list of resolutions, but it is worth some of your time in 2019 to make life a little easier for your family later.

TOP 5 PLANNING TO-DOS FOR 2019:

1. Check beneficiary designations on accounts and policies
 
  • If you haven’t reviewed your beneficiary designations in the last five years for your retirement accounts, bank accounts and insurance policies, now is a great time for a quick check to make sure that the people you have designated to receive those assets are still living, still have the same name and are still a part of your estate plan. See our article on page 4, entitled “Who Gets Your Life Insurance Money After You Die?” for more information.  
 
2. Review trust funding
 
  • Have you made any major purchases in the last few years that need to be titled to a trust? Nothing ruins the best laid estate plans like forgetting to place your assets into your trust, forcing them to go through probate anyway. Make sure all of your assets are actually titled correctly if they are to be included in a trust.
 
 3. Have documents created for adult children
 
  • Parents often don’t realize that once their children turn 18, parents cannot access medical or school information about their children or make decisions for them, even in cases of emergency. Make sure each child has the necessary powers of attorney in place, including a medical power of attorney, so you can pay bills and make medical decisions for your child in case of an accident or sudden incapacity.
  • If your child has significant wealth in his or her name, make sure he/she has a will and an estate plan that will keep this wealth from returning to your taxable estate in the event of an unexpected death.  
 
4. Put a plan in place for your digital assets
 
  • If you have cryptocurrency, you must indicate that to your beneficiary or your estate planner and make a plan for someone to have access to your cryptocurrency wallet after you are gone. This person also needs to have access to the password to unlock the device that your wallet is stored on, and have your private key (like a password) to access the account itself. See our article on page 6, entitled “Estate Planning with Cryptocurrency Requires a Proactive Approach,” for more information.
  • If you have reward points or frequent flyer miles, your heirs may be able to transfer these to their own accounts with a few phone calls and a copy of your death certificate, so create a list (on paper or digitally) of all your accounts with the account/member numbers and the passwords and design a way for your estate’s administrator to access it after your death. Additionally, many airlines offer a shared family plan where points/miles can continue to be used after you are gone by those in the plan.
 
5. Plan for your photos, videos and social media after your death
 
  • To ensure that your family photos and videos are not lost to next generations or destroyed by disasters, have any non-digital pictures/videos scanned and digitized (you can even have slides, negatives and VHS videos digitized), then store them in a digital storage device, like a DVD or external drive, or in a cloud service. Document the location of these images for your heirs and provide the necessary passwords for access. Not only does this protect your images, but it allows for equal access for your children and grandchildren to the family history and photos to eliminate fights over family photo albums after you are gone.
  • If you have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media accounts, these can be hacked after your death. It is important to designate someone to handle the closing or memorialization of these accounts to prevent unauthorized access after you are gone. Make sure this person will have access to your usernames and passwords when needed.
 
It is never too late to add a new resolution for the year. Consider one or more of our top five to tackle in 2019—your family will thank you later! For help in keeping your estate plan resolutions, contact your Warner attorney or Jennifer Remondino, chair of the Trust & Estates practice, at jremondino@wnj.com or at 616.396.3243.
 

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