June 2021 —
The MLO Minute: By Jennifer Simons, Esq. —
If there is one thing that the past year and a half has taught us, it is that life can change in a moment. As many people begin to plan vacations this summer and look forward to traveling again, it is important to add “review my Will” to your vacation checklist. While it is unlikely to happen, there is always the possibility that while traveling you may become ill or have an accident. Hopefully, this will not happen, but if it should, it is prudent to make sure that your estate plan is in place and that your estate will pass according to your wishes. As we head into summer, now is the perfect time to review your Will and other estate planning documents.
If you already have a Will, it is important to review it periodically to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. This is especially important if there have been any major life changes, such as births, deaths, marriage, divorce, change in finances, etc. Any of these changes may impact your current Will in terms of who you wish to inherit your estate, who is named as Executor, Trustee, or Guardian of any minor children. Some things to consider when reviewing your Will are whether the people that you have currently named to fulfill these roles are still appropriate. For instance, if the person whom you named to act as Executor or Trustee is now deceased, you will need to appoint another individual for this role. Likewise, it is critical to make sure that you have appointed an individual to be guardian of any minor children if something should happen to both parents. If a guardian is not named, it is possible that a court will need to appoint a guardian. By stating your preference of a guardian in your Will, you will have peace of mind that your children will be cared for by the person/s that you feel is best suited to take on this important role. Similarly, if you previously named a guardian in your Will, it is a good idea to make sure that you are still comfortable with this person as guardian. You may want to consider whether you still have a good relationship with this person, do your children get along with him/her? Is the person still able to take on this role, or are they getting on in years or no longer in good health? If not, you may want to appoint a different individual to act as guardian.
It is also important to review the beneficiaries under your Will. If a beneficiary of your Will is now deceased or incapacitated, you may need to revise the Will to either remove that beneficiary or perhaps leave their share in Trust. Your Will should also include a clause as to how you want your estate to be distributed in the unlikely scenario that all the named beneficiaries of your Will predecease you. You may wish to name a charity or another individual to inherit your estate should this happen. Otherwise, your estate would pass under the intestacy laws of the state in which you reside at the time of your death and may not pass according to your wishes.
You may also want to review any Powers of Attorney or Living Wills to make sure that these documents are still current and reflect your preferences as to whom is named to act as your Agent for financial and medical matters. If you are traveling and become injured or ill, it is crucial to have a Power of Attorney or Living Will designating another individual to act on your behalf if you are not able to do so. Again, it is especially important to review these documents if there have been any significant life changes such as death, marriage or divorce.
We hope that your vacation does not involve any of the above scenarios and that you have a safe, healthy and enjoyable vacation. However, it is better to plan ahead, and ensure that if anything unexpected happens, you are prepared and have your estate planning documents in place. Of course, if you do not already have a Will, Power of Attorney or Living Will, please contact our office, and we can assist as you begin this process.