Recently Business Weekly published an article about how most people think that they have finished working on their estate plan once they have signed their estate documents. Yet, as the article points out, there are four additional steps to the perfect estate plan. Upon signing your documents you should:
Communicate: Let those named in your documents know who is responsible to make your decisions, whether financial or medical, and to also tell those individuals where your documents are located. A common mistake people make is to go home and throw the documents in a file. Then, years later, when an emergency arises and you need assistance no one knows where the documents are or who has the authority to make decisions. This leads to confusion and stress. Don’t keep your estate plan a secret.
Share the knowledge: This step is probably the hardest for most people. Oftentimes, parents can be reluctant to share information about their finances with their children. At the very least, they need to know where they can find an accurate list of all of your accounts and investments, as well as a list of all internet passwords. Review your medical directive with your agent and share your thoughts regarding medical care so they are familiar with your wishes.
Out with the old: Shred all documentation that is no longer needed. This will save your loved ones the time and energy of trying to determine the status of accounts and assets that have long been redeemed or closed.
Update: Finally, you need to keep your plan current. What may have been an excellent estate plan seven years ago may no longer fit. Lives change. Family relationships change. Finances change.