Tax Time is a Great Time to Organize your Estate

Resolve to start off the New Year on the right foot! It's a good time to take stock of your financial and legal documents and determine what needs to be updated, added, removed, or created. Here are some documents you may want to take a look at in 2019:

Wills and Trusts

Have you defined who will receive your estate, which charities you may want some money to go to, who will care for your children, or who is going to act as your personal representative? If you don't have a will or trust in place already, 2019 may be the year to do so. Should you pass without a will or trust, your estate becomes intestate, meaning that the state steps in and makes decisions about who receives what from your home, possessions, and assets.

If you have children, it is particularly important to define your wishes for who will become their guardian should you pass before your children become legal adults. Who do you trust to care and nurture them, who do you trust to manage the money you leave behind for their care? You may decide to name two different people. How old do you think your children should be prior to receiving the bulk of their inheritance? If your children are older, you may want to consider naming a family friend, who lives close by, to be the guardian so that your child doesn't need to change schools and lose friends and their support system.

You want to make a decision with regard to having your estate go through the probate process or if you prefer for these matters to remain private and have your estate pass through a trust. Your lawyer can guide you through everything else you might need to complete and file a will or trust.

Retirement and Life Insurance Beneficiaries

Are your beneficiaries correct and up-to-date? In many cases, it's very easy to update the list of your beneficiaries online for your retirement and life insurance accounts. Keep in mind that the list of named beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance policies takes precedence over what you have stated in a will or trust. Make sure you don't currently have an ex-spouse named. Take ten minutes to sign in to your accounts and check that your beneficiaries are correct and updated.

Medical Documents

Do you wish to be on life support? Do you want to be cremated or buried? Most importantly, do you have your medical and end-of-life wishes documented for your representative to be able to accurately fulfill your wishes? If not, it may be a good idea to make these crucial decisions sooner rather than later. No one particularly likes to think about being incapacitated or passing on, but not documenting your wishes leaves you vulnerable and creates stress and anxiety for those who are trying to guess what you might want. Take the guess work out of the equation and look at completing a medical power of attorney, the Maryland MOLST, or mental health power of attorney.

Details of Accounts

One of the most common problems is having all the details of your accounts in one place for your representative or heirs to find. It's more typical for people to have important documents in multiple places in varying states of organization. Things like insurance details, mortgage or property information, medical information, and the details for all of your financial accounts and social media accounts all need to be in a place where your representative or heirs can find them. Tax time is a great time to sort through your important documents and pull them together into a single file to store in a fire proof box at home - somewhere secure and safe but easily accessible to the people who will need it.