It’s that time again. My time for reflection, contemplation and self-flagellation. Every year I make New Year’s Resolutions with the best of intentions, but… I won’t even tell you when I stopped going to the gym and started eating popcorn in front of the TV, the last time I wrote a thank you note, or called to check in with my mother-in-law.
However, there are some resolutions that I can live with, and I want to share them with you. The list looks long, but each item is manageable and very important.
Here, in reverse order, are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2022.
If you would rather watch than read then here are 3 links to the same subject matter:
Part 1: https://vimeo.com/660769570
Part 2: https://vimeo.com/660770012
Part 3: https://vimeo.com/660770980
#10. Get some chocolate to snack on while you read on. This list might be a little stressful
#9. Find your current health care proxy form.
Review your health care proxy to make sure you have named the agents you really want to be making health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them for yourself. Also review the contact information to make sure it is up to date. It is possible that you aren’t friends with or trust the people you named the last time. Naming your now ex-spouse is probably not the best plan. Make sure these people are alive, able to assist you in your time of need, and will do what you want them to do. Then make sure that you’ve given the hcp to your agents, so they know they have this job to do.
#8. If you have signed a living will, make sure it says what you want it to say.
You might feel differently now about what kind of health care intervention you would want. If you never signed, maybe you might want to. At the very least, have a conversation with your agent(s), so they know what kind of care you do, and do not, want.
#7. Find your current power of attorney form.
Review your poa. There are many things to look for. Here are some of them:
- What year was it signed? NYS issued new forms in June 2021. If your older form is correctly signed, then the older form is still valid, but it will be easier for your agents to use the power if the agent can produce the most up-to-date form.
- Make sure it includes all the powers your agent needs. Nope, you will not know that just by reading it. But I am pretty sure that if you downloaded the form from the internet, that it is just the standard, basic form which does not include many very important modifications which an estate planning attorney will add.
- Make sure you have named the agents you really want to be able to access your financial information and assist you. Make sure these people are alive, still trustworthy, and will respect your values. Review their addresses.
- Review the gift-giving provisions in the poa. If you haven’t given your agent the power to make gifts on your behalf, you might need to rethink that if you might want your agent to do estate tax planning for you, Medicaid impoverishment planning for you, continue to support someone who you currently support, or you just might want the agent to give gifts to your important people on your behalf. If you have given your agent the power of, make gifts, you might want to modify the power to change the potential gift-recipients, or the amounts of the gifts, or eliminate this power altogether.
- If you have given out copies of a power of attorney form which you want to revoke or change, make sure you get them back from those people.
#6. Take a nap or walk around the block. You’ve earned it if you did the reviews listed in #7.
#5. Prepare to review your other estate planning documents. Before reviewing, make some lists:
List of all your assets and debts. List each item separately. For assets, list each account, piece of real estate, coop, condo, vacation home and time share; insurance policy, etc. If the asset has co-owners, name both. If the asset names a beneficiary, list the name of the beneficiary and the alternate beneficiaries. Also list the approximate value of each asset.
Some assets should name beneficiaries, many do not need to. Assets which are jointly owned or name a beneficiary do not pass under a Will. The terms of the Will do not affect how title of that asset passes. That may, or may not, be what you want.
The asset list will be useful to determine estate tax issues, if any, and to help determine whether a beneficiary can inherit that much money outright or needs a trust.
#4. Do an honest assessment about who you want to leave your assets to when you die.
Think about whether you want to, or can, leave assets to your potential beneficiaries outright. Sometimes leaving assets in a trust is just a better, safer plan. Some potential beneficiaries are minors, or not competent to handle assets, or might be facing creditors, or might be facing a potential matrimonial issue, or might be receiving governmental assistance.
#3. Do an honest assessment about the person/people who you named as executor.
Do you still trust this person? Maybe your children are older now and could do the executor’s job. Perhaps you want to name two people to be co-executors. If you name two people, then you must consider whether you want to require them to act together or you will permit them to act separately.
#2. Now read your Will.
Based upon the asset information you amassed and the assessment you’ve made about your potential beneficiaries’, see if the plans you made in your Will are still the plans you want implemented after you die.
Time for another break. Be kind to yourself and eat something tasty.
#1. AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ESTATE PLANNING RESOLUTION:
Talk with an estate planning professional about your facts and circumstances.
Information from AARP magazine or Forbes or the NY Times is interesting but is not necessarily relevant or even accurate for a NYS resident, and the author does not know you, your assets, your family, your planning goals.
The estate planning professional can work in conjunction with your accountant/tax preparer and your financial advisor. The estate planning professional should listen to you, review your current documents and information, and then will be able to make recommendations that address your issues, create, and implement your estate plan.