Succession Planning

The “Plan” in Your Estate Planning

Many potential clients tell me, after I ask them if they have an estate plan in place, “Sure, we did one 10 [or 15 or 20] years ago when the kids were young. Everything is taken care of.” I next ask them when was the last time they actually read those documents. “Oh, 10 [or 15 or 20] years ago. Nothing has changed”, and then they go on to say they do not need my assistance.

What they forget is that time marches on. People die, get divorced, have more children, buy new property or dispose of other property. Many times the individuals or entities whom they trusted to be their Independent Representatives (Executors) or Trustees or named Guardians for their children are not the same people they would chose today. Friendships end, people move away and lose touch, children grow up, people die or become unable to serve in the roles you chose for them, and circumstances change.

People need to get out and read their estate planning documents at least once every five (5) years to make sure that everything is still how they want it and that the individuals they have chosen for these important roles are still willing and able to serve in those positions. For example the in-law (or child) whom you trusted to handle everything, now maybe someone you don‘t want anywhere near your assets, but they could still serve (or demand to serve) if that person is still listed in the documents.

People say that they don’t want to spend more money to redo what they have already done. My response is simple: It costs nothing for you to read your documents and make sure everything is still in order, especially those whom you have named as Agents under Financial and/or Health Care Powers of Attorney or Trustees under a Revocable Living Trust. It usually costs comparatively little for your attorney to prepare amendments to your various documents. Furthermore the attorney will help you identify current issues that did not exist when the original documents were drafted and executed, as well as assist you in making sure your assets are titled correctly.

Do not assume everything is correct because it was correct at one point.

Take time to “Plan for the Future” by looking at your documents today. Furthermore, if you have put off preparing any documents, you should work with a qualified attorney to make sure your wishes are carried out. Do not rely on costly statutory imposed supervised probate or do-it-yourself documents found on the internet that might not even be applicable for your state or particular situation.

Now is the time for you to “Plan” for the future.

Leave a Reply