When people sit down with attorneys to do estate planning, the overriding concern is that their plans will be solid. However, what are the elements of a solid plan? Let's look at three signs a set of documents will likely hold up well under estate planning law.
A good plan should have some room for the estate to change. It should provide an executor with sufficient power to adjust to whatever circumstances might emerge after the grantor passes. Likewise, it should be sufficiently funded to deal with the wobbliness of debts and taxes without taking from beneficiaries.
There should also be a specific contingency in every estate plan. Successorship matters. A successor is a person who takes over the executor role if the first person isn't available or can't perform the duties.
Also, you'll want contingencies for what happens if a beneficiary is no longer available. This is especially important when the beneficiaries are organizations and not people. If you wish to donate assets to a non-profit, for example, you'll want a contingency for what happens if it goes under. Who should get the assets then?
One of the greatest threats to an estate after someone passes is ambiguity. If it's not clear what the executor should do, this risks throwing the estate into litigation. Whenever possible, try to outline your intentions in as painfully specific a manner as possible. Even if someone does litigate the estate, your directions will guide the judge in rendering decisions.
It's a good idea to have an attorney check up on the parties to an estate at least once a year. This simply means contacting them and verifying that their information is correct. People move, marry, divorce, and do loads of other things. These changes can alter everything from their addresses to their legal names. It never hurts to pay a professional to check up on folks and make some updates to the contact list.
Likewise, it's a good idea to conduct an annual review. This is especially important if your assets change significantly in type or value yearly. If you invest a lot, don't assume your accounts will serve to properly lasso the assets into a single cluster for estate planning law purposes. Itemize everything and provide updates.
Similarly, you'll want to keep up with changes to state and federal rules. If the laws change, meet with an attorney and discuss how they might affect your estate. As necessary, adjust your will and any related trusts to account for legal changes.