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To Those Who Use Their Living Trust as a Bookend...

By October 23, 2012Estate Planning

One of the very first comments I receive when a new client comes in to sign their estate planning portfolio is, “Wow! I had no idea it would be that big!” They are amazed at how much paper it takes to create a full, comprehensive estate plan. And thus, a lot of paper means a rather large portfolio.

So, for those of you who have an estate plan, whether done by MH or another law firm, how do you use your estate planning portfolio? Paperweight? Counterbalance? Bookend? Bench press? You likely think I’m being facetious about this, but I’m really not! You would be surprised at all the different ways that our portfolios are used by our clients. But of all the things I’ve heard, the most common use tends to be that of non-use – it sat on a shelf and collected dust.

While I certainly don’t expect you to read through your estate planning documents every single night, or even once a month, the point I want to emphasize is that a trust is a fluid document. By this I mean that circumstances and the law change, and your documents are meant to be adaptable and amendable. To get the most value out of your estate planning documents, they need to be reviewed regularly, not just once a decade.

Let’s just imagine you happen to be one of those people whose trust is conveniently holding up your encyclopedia set. (Do those even exist anymore?!? I digress….) Would you like to know some of the things you should look at to make the most of your estate planning documents? Here’s a quick list:

  • Successor Trustees / Personal Representatives: Check to make sure you still want these named individuals as the ones to administer your estate or manage your trust assets if you become incapacitated or pass away.
  • Beneficiaries: Do you still want the named beneficiaries to be the ones receiving your estate? Sometimes family circumstances change to the point where these designations may need to be altered. Perhaps one of your beneficiaries has had children since the time you first created the document, and now you would like to make those children part of the estate plan, too.
  • Health Care Agents: You would be surprised how many times a client thought that a particular son or daughter was named as the first health care agent, only to discover such was not the case.  Unfortunately, this is often discovered too late. Don’t let this happen to you or your family. Again, family dynamics can change and it may be advantageous to update your documents as these changes occur.
  • New Family Members: Most estate plans are drafted in such a way that the birth of additional children, or even the loss of children, is automatically factored into the final equation of how your estate will be distributed. But don’t leave this to chance either! Some of your children might require different planning than that of their siblings, and a cookie-cutter estate plan may not be the best scenario for all involved.

While those are some of the items you can pay attention to, the final item I wish to mention is that just as your life changes, so does the law. Laws are frequently passed, amended, removed, extended, etc. We do not expect our clients to be the ones who watch for all the various law changes, let alone to know which laws affect their documents. This area of the law is our specialty and we will keep our clients up-to-date on changes that affect their planning.

If it has been awhile since your oversized paperweight has been opened, I’d encourage you to look through your designations at least yearly and let us know if you have changes to be made. In fact, we encourage our clients to meet with an MH attorney to review their documents every 3-5 years.  We will go through all these various aspects and ensure your documents still accomplish all that you created them to do.  Everyone’s situation is different and we would love to meet with you to review your unique set of circumstances.

I think your bookshelf will be just fine without it for a little while...

MH_iphone_splashWhy Choose Morris Hall:

You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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