How to Understand Your Estate Plan

Wills, Trusts, and Durable Powers of Attorney can be confusing. Here is what you should know.

 

From time to time, prospective clients tell me that they don’t completely understand their estate plan. I empathize since Wills, Trusts, and Durable Powers of Attorney can be confusing. What may appear as straightforward terms take on entirely different meanings under the law. Moreover, each state’s laws are different, so when you migrate from another state to become a Wisconsin resident, unintended consequences might arise in your plan.

When a comprehensive estate plan is prepared, it is a combination of a number of different documents.  When the plan is designed by an experienced estate planning attorney, like the attorneys at Ross Estate Planning, those documents are tailored to the particular client and his or her wishes and preferences.  Signing the plan may involve reviewing over a hundred pages and multiple legal instruments.

At Ross Estate Planning, we strive to make our clients knowledgeable consumers.  By that, we mean that it is as important to us that our clients leave every meeting with an understanding of what we have discussed in terms of pros and cons, as well as the reasons we have proposed a particular estate plan. Even with the educational materials we provide and the time we take to learn about our clients and answer their questions, estate planning documents – especially with legal terms which may alter the common understanding of terms of art – it is not uncommon to hear confusion and queries about the final estate plan.

For this reason, review meetings on an annual basis are a part of our process.  We encourage our clients to take advantage of the complimentary annual review to revisit the roles and responsibilities we have assigned and the ultimate distributions we have detailed.  Annual reviews also provide us with an opportunity to discuss changes in individual circumstances and new or revised laws.

Reviewing your own estate plan from time to time does not need to be daunting.  A simple self-check can help you determine whether more time a meeting with us is necessary:

  1. Do you have a Will or a Trust – and do you remember why you chose one over the other?
  2. Who have you named to carry out different roles in your plan – and are these still people you would choose today? Review your Trustee, Personal Representative, Power of Attorney Agent for both financial matters and health care.
  3. Who have you listed as beneficiaries of specific assets in your estate?
  4. Do you have charities included, and if so, are these still the charities you wish to support?
  5. Have you provided for children, grandchildren, and other important family members or friends?
  6. At what ages have you granted your beneficiaries access to their inheritance?
  7. Do you have any new diagnoses or medical concerns that warrant discussion of long term care requirements?

Just as you would not visit your doctor once to discuss your health and never return for a check-up, you should revisit your estate plan and review its terms with legal counsel.  Even if Ross Estate Planning did not draft your original plan, we are happy to review it with you and determine if it still meets your needs.   All it takes is a conversation…..

 

 

 

 

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