5 Tips to Ensure Your Estate Plan (Actually) Works

Your Estate Plan is an incredibly important part of your Legacy Plan, and it helps protect both your Financial Wealth and your Personal Wealth. Every adult needs at least 3 legal documents in place: a Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Living Will. Together, these legal documents ensure that your assets pass to the people you choose and your affairs are handled by the people you trust.

But you don’t just want “documents”– you want a plan that is going to work when your family needs it most, right?

Here are 5 Tips to Ensure Your Estate Plan (Actually) Works:

Work with a Qualified Attorney

This one tops the list here because it is a common misconception that you can can save money by getting your estate plan documents online or from a friend who is a lawyer.

There are a couple of things to unpack here:

  1. “Doing it yourself” may save you money up front, but very often results in expensive problems down the line. Too often, families don’t discover these problems until something has happened and it’s too late to have a qualified attorney correct the documents.

While you could read about how to perform a medical procedure on a family member and try it yourself, it wouldn’t be a very good idea, would it? Of course not– you’d rather have a trained professional do it. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. The same is true of your estate planning documents.

2. Many lawyers say they do “simple Wills” even though it’s not within their area of expertise. When attorneys step outside their “wheelhouse,” their knowledge of an area of law is often shallow. This sometimes leads to an attorney handling what they think is a “simple Will” for a client or friend without understanding and properly addressing certain issues. If you want your estate plan done properly and want support for your family in the future, you should work with an attorney who has dedicated their practice to estate planning, elder law, and estates.

Review Your Estate Plan Every 3 Years

Many people treat Estate Planning as something they can do once and “check off” their to do list. But then, life happens. If you don’t pay attention to your Estate Plan, it may not work when your family needs it most.

We recommend that you review your Estate Plan every 3 years, and we provide our Estate Planning Clients a No-Charge 3-Year Review to help them determine when changes are necessary based on the changes in their lives.

Here is a list of 10 Reasons to Update your Estate Plan.

Connect Your Professionals and Your Decision Makers

Your Estate Plan is a part of your Legacy Plan, which is a holistic approach to protecting your Financial Wealth and Personal Wealth. Legacy Planning involves working with different professionals to cover all the bases– Legal, Insurance, Financial, and Taxes.

Someday, your family will need to work with these professionals to handle your affairs. You should connect your chosen professionals with your Decision Makers– the people who will handle your affairs– while you’re able. Establishing a relationship between your professionals and decision makers will ensure a smooth transition in the future.

Ensure Access to Your Plan

Nothing could be worse than putting an Estate Plan in place that no one knows about or can access.

You need to ensure that your Decision Makers have access to the physical documents. You need to store the documents in a secure location and provide access to your Decision Makers. If they can’t access the original documents, they won’t be able to use them!

Additionally, the reality is that, when you need the documents, you won’t have them on you. For example, if you’re in an accident, you’re not going to have your Power of Attorney or Living Will in your car with you.

You should have a card in your wallet which identifies which documents you have, who should be contacted, and other important information. This way, if you’re in an accident, First Responders and Hospitals will know who to call.

We also have access to a service that will make copies of your Power of Attorney and Living Will available 24-7 to First Responders and Hospitals.

Create a Vital Information Guide

Finally, you need a Vital Information Guide. This is the name of  the workbook we provide our clients that contains all the personal, financial, legal, and medical information anyone could ever need to know about them.

Most families have what we call a “Family CFO”– the person who handles all the paperwork and financials for the household. If this person is you, you owe it to your family to put all of this information together so that no one else has to “de-code” your system when something happens to you. If it’s not you, you need to insist that your Family CFO put together a Vital Information Guide so that you aren’t ever forced to piece it all together from the bits and pieces of information you do know.

If you’re ready to work with a qualified attorney to ensure your Estate Plan actually works when your family needs it, call Costanzo & Russom Law Group.