The Twelve Days of Estate Planning
The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Twelvetide, is a festive Christian celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. The first day is December 25, and the celebration extends until January 5. (Fun fact: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is set on the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas.)
Borrowing on the popular carol, I submit for your consideration the following list of estate planning considerations to assist in bringing your estate plan up to date. Please consider these steps, whatever your religious affiliation.
Also, feel free to sing along.
On the first day of Christmas: Locate your will. You should know where it is. Further, your estate trustee(s) should know where it is. Ensure that your will is immediately accessible when needed.
On the second day of Christmas: If you don’t have a will, make a will!
On the third day of Christmas: If you have a will, review your will to make sure that it remains relevant and appropriate. Has the makeup of your family changed? Have the nature or worth of your assets changed? Should you consider making a primary and secondary will? Have you appropriately provided for minors or disabled beneficiaries?
On the fourth day of Christmas: Review what assets may pass outside of your estate, either by right of survivorship or by beneficiary designation. Are these consistent with your plan? Are these assets to pass as a gift, or are they held in this manner only as a matter of convenience or tax planning, with the intention that they are to be distributed in accordance with your will? If a gift is intended, is their sufficient evidence to overcome any presumption of resulting trust?
On the fifth day of Christmas: Make a list of your assets, with particulars of where they are held, and account numbers. Make an inventory of your golden rings. This will simplify the job of your estate trustee.
On the sixth day of Christmas: Consider your digital assets. Make a list of all of your online accounts and passwords. Make sure that these are accessible by your estate trustee when necessary.
On the seventh day of Christmas: Consider charitable donations, either testamentary or otherwise. Non-testamentary charitable donations should be made before year end for maximum tax benefits.
On the eight day of Christmas: Consider making powers of attorney for personal care and for property. If you already have them, review them to make sure they remain appropriate. Consider who your proposed attorneys may be. Speak to your attorney(s) for personal care with respect to end of life decisions.
On the ninth day of Christmas: Discuss your funeral plans with your estate trustee and your family. Make your wishes known. This will make your estate trustee’s job easier, and may help to avoid conflict amongst your family, who may have different notions of what you would have wanted. Consider preplanning and prepaying for your funeral arrangements.
On the tenth day of Christmas: Consider sharing time with loved ones now. See Five Things your clients should do before they die.
On the eleventh day of Christmas: Review your insurance coverage. Do you have enough? Are your beneficiary designations in keeping with your estate plan? If the beneficiaries are minors, have you established an appropriate insurance trust for them?
On the twelfth day of Christmas: Sit back and relax. Look back over the past year and count your blessings. And take comfort in the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your estate plan is in better order than ever.