August 22nd, 2023

Mastering Your Estate Plan: Four Key Dos and Don’ts

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If you’re reading this, there is still time to take part in Make a Will Month. Post beach, pre back-to-school, August is a great time to catch up on the project nearly everyone loves to put off till tomorrow: starting, updating or completing your Will.

It’s easier than most people think. To get you started, here are two do’s and two dont’s to think about

  • DO leave a list showing where your assets are held. This is a huge gift for your family members to use in the event tragedy strikes. A lot of the time and expense spent administering an estate comes from locating a departed person’s assets. If you do nothing else about your estate planning this month, at least do this. (Stein Sperling has a handy Estate Organizer on its website.)
  • DO remember to update your beneficiary designations. A Last Will and Testament does not govern what happens to retirement accounts and life insurance policies if you have beneficiary designations. You need to stay on top of them, know what they say, and keep them current. BTW: It’s smart to have both a primary and a contingent (backup) beneficiary.
  • DON’T leave your kids without resources. If you have life insurance and minor children, you really need an estate plan. Minor children who are listed as beneficiaries of your life insurance proceeds won’t receive those funds until they reach the age of majority, at which time they’ll get one lump sum without any restrictions on how the funds can be used. Use an estate plan to specify what funds you want your kids to have access to, when, and for what purposes.
  • DON’T get bogged down by one particular decision. (One common speedbump: “We could never decide on a guardian for our kids, so we just decided to wait on doing an estate plan until they’re over 18.”) Your estate plan can (usually) be changed. Just start, already.

Sadly, if something happens to you and you don’t have a Will, your family will not only be grieving your passing — they’ll be left without the documentation and guidance needed to manage without you. Now is the time to ensure that does not happen, contact one of the attorneys in Stein Sperling’s Estates and Trusts Department to guide you through the process.