Nearly everyone in America (even people of fairly modest financial means) would benefit from the security of having a basic estate plan that includes a Last Will and Testament, Powers of Attorney (both financial and medical) and an Advance Directive. If you fall into the category of pre-planning Americans who have already completed their plan, congratulations. You’ve gone further than most. But, maybe to your surprise, you may not be done. Here are a few important things that you should consider if you haven’t already:
- Safeguard Original Documents and Keep them Accessible: In most states, courts want to see the original documents, not merely photocopies. Because some state laws can infer that you have revoked documents that can’t be produced, it’s important to ensure that original, signed documents can be given to a court when needed. Also, don’t merely squirrel the documents into a safety deposit box that only you can access. After all, if you have appointed your brother as your primary decision maker if you become incapacitated, how can he access those documents? We recommend utilizing a fire-proof, at-home safe, if possible. If you must use a bank’s safety deposit box, make sure your executor or agent is listed with the bank so that they make access the box if needed. No matter where you store your important documents, be sure and tell people close to you where they can find your documents if necessary.
- Create an “Important Documents” Binder: Consider the hardship that your loved ones will go through immediately if you are seriously injured or when you pass away. They may not be thinking clearly or have immediate access to a lawyer. We suggest taking the time to compile a binder that includes the following: your estate planning documents (originals), insurance documents, home deed, a list of banking accounts (including account numbers and institutions), a list of any significant creditors, and even internet passwords. You may also include your list of trusted advisor, such as your attorney, CPA, insurance professional, or treating physician. Once you’ve compiled the binder, store it in a safe place (see above) and tell your loved ones where they can find it.
- Verify Beneficiary Designations and P.O.D. Designations: By law, most states require insurance designations to be made in writing. Nearly all banking institutions require the same. If you have any life insurance or wish to designate your financial accounts (including bank accounts, retirement accounts, or stock accounts), contact your insurance or financial professional to verify the designations meet your goals. If they don’t, ask them how to revise them.
- Periodically Revisit Your Plan: Depending on the complexity of your personal or financial status, you should periodically revisit your estate and financial plan. Most attorneys suggest a plan review at least every 5 years (although such review should be done more frequently if you are a high net-worth individual, or if your family situation changes because of a birth, divorce, marriage, etc.). Your estate plan is often a dynamic part of your life and should not be done only once in your lifetime.
For more information about estate planning, click here. If our firm can provide any guidance or help with your existing estate plan, please contact us. If you haven’t already completed your plan, contact our offices today for help. We can be reached at (469) 607-4503 or via [email protected]
ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at [email protected].
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.