Well, you’re feeling pretty good. Years ago, you went to an attorney and had a full estate plan crafted and signed. Witnesses, notaries and everything was official. What a load off your mind. But good estate planning requires periodic attention. It’s never really over, because if one thing is certain, life is constantly changing. And so you should revisit your plan and make adjustments from time to time. Here are two common mistakes to avoid.
Not updating your beneficiary designations
Sure, you have a will that directs who gets what. But it doesn’t cover everything. Certain financial assets – retirement accounts and life insurance, for example – require separate beneficiary designations with that financial institution. Failure to review and update these designations may result in unintended consequences. If you are divorced now, did you leave the ex-spouse on that retirement account you opened all those years ago? Or maybe you put a brother or sister as a beneficiary to an account when you were young. But all these years later, something tragic happens to you and they inherit a large sum from you. Problem is, they were on Medicaid, which limits assets. Now you may have put their Medicaid benefits in jeopardy.
Failing to update ownership of an asset
Many times we open accounts or enter into partnerships jointly with others. But as people come and go through marriage or business, it’s important to remember to check in and make sure these arrangements still work for you. Is there a life change, or tax law change that requires a rethinking?
Review your beneficiary designations and ownership choices every couple of years and after every major life change in your family. As life events happen, remember to ask yourself: Does this setup still work for me?