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Stuck at Home Estate Planning

By: Alexander D. Magid, Esquire, CTFA, Vice President and Trust Officer at Univest Bank and Trust Co.

There is no doubt that we are going through uncertain times but being stuck at home can provide the perfect opportunity to review your pertinent estate planning documents. While this may not sound glamorous or be the most exciting use of your time, it is essential to periodically review your estate plan and have things updated as necessary. Below, we will discuss both what should be looked at and considered when reviewing an existing estate plan, as well as what other documentation or information may be needed to administer your estate.

Reviewing Your Estate Plan

While this is predicated on the fact that you have already engaged an attorney to draft up a Will, Power of Attorney, medical healthcare directive, and any other legal documents you may need, every person should be reviewing their estate planning documents every few years. The reason for this is two-fold: your situation may have changed and/or the law may have changed.

Change in a personal situation – A constant fact of life is that it continues to evolve for every person and, most likely, you are not where you were five years ago. Life events such as a change in career, an expanding family, a loved one passing away, divorce, etc. should inherently trigger a review of estate planning documents because such events will change your overall estate plan. Furthermore, simply the passage of time necessitates a need to review your overall plan, as any individuals named in your documents are now older, which may make them more or less appropriate than you previously had planned.

Change in the law – Much like how life continues to evolve on a personal level, the passage of time also allows the law to catch up and change as well. While, the law does take much longer to recognize change, every so often changes in law necessitate a change in your estate planning documents. For example, in 2015, there were significant changes enacted in Pennsylvania law that drastically affected how the Power of Attorney documents were drafted. It is not on you to know what the law is and how it may affect your overall estate plan unless you chose to prepare your own documents. If you had an attorney draft your document, they should be sending you updates on the law and offering to have a periodic review of your documents.

Documentation and Preparation

While the idea of “planning for the inevitable” is more conceptual, there are practical things you can do now to not only keep yourself organized but can make the job of your eventual Executor, Trustee, Agent, etc. easier.

A core principle of estate planning is knowing and understanding what assets you have, as well as the legal and practical implications of how you want them to pass. What is not usually discussed is how you should be organizing information that will eventually be necessary to administer your estate by your Executor or Trustee. Keeping a log (in a safe place) of your bank account numbers, investments, loans, valuable personal items, etc. along with your estate planning documents is a great start and will make things much easier for your executor to administer your estate. Additionally, while it is not always allowed under the law to allow others access to your online accounts (even after death), keeping a log of online accounts that may have value (personal, sentimental, or financial) is vital for your Executor/Trustee to properly administer your estate, as these types of assets may not otherwise be known to others.

If you feel your estate planning needs some fine tuning, do not hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced Trust officers who can provide professional guidance. Stay safe!

 

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This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. The information in this article, and any opinions expressed therein, do not constitute a recommendation or an offer to buy or sell any security or financial instrument. Viewers should consult with their financial and/or legal professionals before making any financial decisions.

Girard is a marketing name used by Univest Financial Corporation to provide (1) investment and wealth management, fiduciary services and trust services through its subsidiary Univest Bank and Trust Co., (2) specific fiduciary and investment advisory services through Girard Advisory Services, LLC (3) securities products, insurance products and brokerage services through Girard Investment Services, LLC, a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and (4) investment management and related products and services to Pennsylvania municipal entities through Girard Pension Services, LLC.