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Spring Cleaning: Time to clean up estate plans

Spring Cleaning: Time to clean up your clients’ estate plans

An estate plan, like your home, periodically needs a thorough polishing. Life circumstances are constantly changing, and an estate plan that perfectly met your client’s needs a couple of years ago may now be cluttered with outdated provisions or documents. With spring in the air, now it’s time to talk to your clients about dusting off their estate plan to ensure that it will still achieve their goals.

Here are some items for your clients to consider when spring cleaning their estate plan:

  • How long has it been since your estate planning documents were created? – It’s a good idea to review your documents at least every five years to discuss how changes in the law or tax code impact your estate.
  • Have your assets changed? – Changes to your wealth may affect the distribution or tax-planning of your estate.
  • What are the personal circumstances of the intended beneficiaries? – Have your children reached adulthood? Or, does one of your beneficiaries have special needs or other circumstances where a trust may be appropriate for their share. Conversely, maybe your estate planning documents set up restrictive trusts that you feel may no longer be necessary for the intended beneficiaries.
  • Are the individuals chosen as your Executor, Trustee, Guardian, and/or Agent able to fulfill the role? – Perhaps the individuals chosen have aged, moved, or have other circumstances that would prevent them from taking on these important roles. Or perhaps you have children or other individuals who you now feel are capable of being named to these responsibilities. It is also wise to name alternates who can serve if the fiduciary is not available when needed – and to regularly verify that those alternates are still available and willing to act if necessary.
  • Have your wishes for the distribution of your estate changed? – You may have a very different idea for distributing your estate now than you did when your documents were initially created.
  • Are you considering making any large financial gifts or a donation to a charity? Making large financial gifts may affect the distribution of your estate or have estate or gift tax consequences.
  • Do your beneficiary designations coordinate with your estate plan? You may have completed beneficiary designations for assets such as life insurance, 401(k)s, or IRAs without reviewing your estate plan, or forgotten to update these forms when your prior estate planning documents were completed.

For more information and resources, contact Jen-L W. Lyman, Senior Director of Gift Planning and Advisor Relations, at (808) 566-5596 jlyman@hcf-hawaii.org.