December 9, 2010
It’s that time of the year again where the stores are packed, traffic is horrendous and holiday parties are in full swing. And no matter what holiday you celebrate, this is certainly not the safest time to be out-and-about on the roads.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2002 alone, alcohol related crashes killed 1,561 people. That doesn’t even account for the people who were simply injured or incapacitated for any length of time from their injuries.
That’s why as a Sacramento Trusts and Estates Lawyer, I believe the holidays are the perfect time to make sure your will, trust or other estate planning documents are updated so your family stays protected should something unexpectedly happen to you.
Without such an updated estate plan, your children could be left at the mercy of the courts, your assets in limbo and your physical or medical wishes may not be honored in the event of an accident.
Specifically, here are four things to consider when updating your estate plan prior to the holiday season:
• Guardianship nominations: Have you named guardians to care for your children if something happens to you? Have you made sure those guardians will have the financial resources to care for your kids in your absence? Are you even happy with the people you originally chose to care for your kids? If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to pull your plan out of the drawer and make a few key changes.
• The effect of marriage, divorce or remarriage: Is your ex-spouse still set to get half of what you own according to the directions of your prior estate plan? Is your ex-spouse still listed as beneficiary of your life insurance policy? Have you named your minor children as beneficiaries? If so, it’s time to update! I recommend reviewing your plan carefully to make sure your beneficiaries are exactly as they should be in case something unexpectedly happens to you.
• Are your assets owned properly in the name of your trust? If you have a trust, now is a great time to take an inventory of your assets and make sure they are owned properly in the name of that trust. This is one of the most common reasons an estate plan will fail at the end of a person’s life.
• Do you have medical directives and Powers of Attorney (POA) if you are incapacitated? If you are incapacitated in an accident but do not die, you’ll need clear medical directives and power of attorney forms so someone you trust can make medical and financial decisions until you are able to speak for yourself. If medical directives and POA’s were not included in your original plan, speak with a qualified Sacramento Trusts and Estates attorney to have them drawn up before the hustle and bustle of the season starts.
In closing, I can’t stress enough how much an updated estate plan is the greatest gift you can give to your family over the holiday season. It’s the only way to make sure your children, assets and wishes will stay protected should something happen to you during this dangerous time of the year.