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Showing Love with Your Estate Plan

Thinking of your loved ones? Do more than send them valentines and flowers. Use your estate plan to put your love into action.

If your spouse’s eyes glaze over when you want to talk about finances or estate plans, you can still make life easier for your spouse by organizing this info all in one place. Include an updated list of all your key contacts such as your accountant, financial planner or advisor, and estate planning attorney, and keep it in a place that your spouse would know to find it. Update your net worth statement with all accounts and assets the two of you own and make sure you include whose name(s) is on each account or asset. Be sure to include life insurance policy details, pre-paid burial plans, funeral preferences, and digital identity info such as online bill payments and passwords. Do not keep these files in a bank box.

Next, think about your adult children and their strengths and weaknesses. Talk to your estate planning attorney if one of them can’t manage money or has a stormy marriage that could end in divorce. If your adult children are your beneficiaries in your estate plan, you can build in protections from your child’s creditors or divorcing spouse by using the correctly structured trust. Consider if your children’s strengths make them good candidates to serve as your durable power of attorney, executor, healthcare power of attorney, or other roles that will become more important as you and your spouse age. Remember that your estate plan should address your late life as well as after you’re gone.

Next, think about your grandchildren and their future needs such as college, support if they are permanently disabled, and their interests in your hobbies or collections. Keep in mind that divorce decrees will impact their lives if they are part of blended families. Also, make sure that your estate plan addresses future grandchildren.

You can’t control the future, but you can make sure that your estate plan expresses your deep love for your loved ones much better than a valentine covered with hearts. Changes in your financial affairs, your family members through deaths and divorces, and your designated agents occur more often than you think. Consult with your attorney especially if your estate plan needs to be updated, and then let your loved ones know just how much you love them.