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  • McNickle & Bonner

Estate Planning Checklist for the New Year

As the year draws close to an end and you spend more time holidaying with loved ones, you can’t help but notice changes in health, age, or assets that have taken place over the year. Maybe the birth of a new child has added one more person to the family or the loss of someone has brought memories of the past.


Whatever the case, these changes are a reminder of the need to prepare for the future by having an estate plan in place. If you already have one, you want to review it to reflect the new changes. Wondering where to start? We’ve put together this checklist for you.



Create or update your financial durable power of attorney

What happens when you become incapacitated and can no longer operate your business, manage your investments, file tax returns, or even pay bills? You can authorize someone to handle all these on your behalf by creating a durable power of attorney. This person, known as an attorney-in-fact or agent, can have broad or little powers to act on your behalf.


Already have an attorney-in-fact? The new year presents you with the opportunity to review and modify the DPOA. Does your attorney-in-fact have the broad authority to act as you wish? Is your attorney-in-fact still alive? If so, do you want to appoint someone else? Have you named a successor attorney-in-fact to act in the event your first choice is unwilling or unable to act? Now is the time to schedule a checkup to make the necessary changes.


Establish a durable power of attorney for health

When you have a medical emergency and cannot make decisions about your health, a durable power of attorney enables the person you’ve appointed to step in and make decisions on your behalf. Even if you have a spouse or a child, it is still in your best interest to appoint an agent.


That’s because, without a durable power of attorney, anyone serving in that capacity will have limited powers to make decisions. In addition, a court may be forced to appoint a guardian you would never have trusted if there are no surviving family members or if your children can’t agree on whom to act as the agent.


Consider creating a trust

Don’t have a trust? A trust is one of the vital tools in estate planning. It can be used to accomplish several goals, including transferring assets to your loved ones without the hassles of probate, minimizing tax, providing care for a loved one with a disability, and creating a succession plan for your business.


You can also use a trust to preserve properties for your young children, giving you the peace of mind that they will receive the care you want them to. If you already have a trust in place, the new year is a great time to schedule a review to change your trustee or name a successor trustee, change beneficiaries or guardianship for minors, fund your trust, and ensure it is in line with your estate planning goals.


Get your affairs in order with a will

A will is a document that states how and who gets your assets and makes your last wishes known when you pass away. Without a will, your assets could end up where you don’t want them to. As such, this is a great time to create a will if you don’t have one. Even if you have a will, it could be invalidated if improperly constructed.


In addition, there may have been life events or changes since you last updated it, such as the birth of a new child, the acquisition of a new property, divorce, marriage, death of a beneficiary, etc. Reviewing your will ensures it is up to date and according to your wishes.


Review your beneficiaries

Your bank accounts, retirement accounts, pension plans, investments, life insurance policies, and other accounts all contain beneficiaries that’ll receive your assets if something happens to you.


However, life changes may have occurred that may require you to change the names of the beneficiaries. Or maybe you’ve left the beneficiary spot blank. You may want to have a rethink as your assets will go through probate. Review your accounts and replace or name beneficiaries as needed.


Preparing or updating your estate plan will help protect your loved ones and ensure you’re on track to secure your future. Contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at McNickle & Bonner to help prepare a comprehensive estate plan that meets your needs.


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