15 Jun

First off, congratulations! Estate planning takes a lot of work and can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but you’ve made it. Your new estate plan should serve you and your family well, but you might be wondering if there are any next steps you might need to take. Let’s look at what you should do in the short and long term to make sure your legacy is secure and nothing falls through the cracks. 

Saving (and Sharing) Your Estate Planning Paperwork

Your estate plan contains many important documents, so it is essential that you store your plan properly. Where to start:   

  • Keep your plan in a secure location (or with your attorney). It is essential that your documents are not exposed to water, fire, pets, or little kids! Our office houses many estate plans in a locked, fire-proof cabinet to ensure that our clients’ documents are protected from the elements and theft. Do not keep your estate plan in a safe deposit box – your fiduciaries will need the documents inside to gain access to it!
  • Tell your loved ones where to find copies and how to access the originals. If you have a binder with copies of your estate plan, make sure that your loved ones know where it is located in your home. You should also be sure to keep your attorney’s contact information with the documents, so your family knows who to contact in an emergency or after a death.
  • Share your plan electronically. Because estate planning documents do not typically contain social security numbers, account numbers, or other identifying information, you can safely email them to your fiduciaries. If you are comfortable doing so, it can be wise to send your fiduciaries PDF copies of your estate plan to ensure that they have access to the documents in an emergency. You should keep a password-protected file on your PC or cloud service with your documents for easy access and share the password with your fiduciaries. 
  • Give your incapacity documents to your primary care physicianIf you are ever rushed to the hospital, it is important that your family can find your incapacity documents. In addition to emailing copies of your Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Waiver, and Living Will to your agents, we recommend providing a copy to your PCP so that the office can fax a copy to the emergency room if needed.

Your Estate Plan is a Living Document

Over the course of your life, your needs, goals, and fortunes will change, particularly if you have young children. Your estate plan is a snapshot of your life – your assets, beneficiaries, and priorities of the moment, so it makes sense to revisit it from time to time. We reach out to our clients about every three years to review the plan to ensure that changes are made in a timely manner. You should reach out to your estate planning attorney whenever some major change occurs in your life, too, such as changing assets (like a new home), beneficiaries (divorces or marriages in the family), or your family’s goals. 

Additional Legal Documents to Think About

Many basic estate plans contain a Will, Health Care Proxy, and Durable Power of Attorney. It’s common for clients to think they have completed their estate plan with these three documents, but that is simply not the case! It’s critical to have a HIPAA Waiver and Living Will to accompany your incapacity documents to ensure that your Agents have access to your medical information and wishes. 

Revocable Trusts in Massachusetts

Young families looking to preserve as many assets for their children as possible must implement Revocable Trusts to avoid the probate process and reduce Massachusetts estate tax liability. Robust guardianship planning, both long term and short term, is essential when there are young children. If your plan doesn’t contain all of these pieces, there is more that can and should be done to protect your family. 

If you need assistance with your current estate plan, refreshing an old one, or just want a second pair of eyes focused on helping young families with estate planning in Massachusetts and dealing with the emotional parts of estate planning, we at Mulhall Withrow are here for you. Schedule a consultation today, and we’ll help answer any questions you might have.