The Batteries of Our Life Plan

With spring comes the change to daylight savings time and the reminder to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.  Also, with spring comes tax time.  So, as we work on completing and filing our tax returns, this is a great time to make sure the “batteries” for our life plans have not given out.

Here is a suggested to-do list.  Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, as you may have other items to add which pertain to your specific circumstances.

1. Estate Documents:

a) Do you have a will in place? If not, set a specific date to have this completed, whether you use an estate attorney or an online service.  Make sure you follow the filing requirements per your state of residence.  These are hard conversations to have both with ourselves and our spouse.  Remember a will ensures the folks, charities, and events near and dear to our hearts will be taken care of in the manner most important to us.

b) You have a will, but when was the last time you reviewed it? A good rule of thumb is at least every five years, but more often if your circumstances have changed recently.

2. Health and Financial Directives:

a) These are important documents, as they contain your written instructions regarding your future medical care and management of your finances/assets if and when you can’t. Stay tuned for my next blog, when I discuss how these impact unmarried couples.

b) Do you have these in place? If not, include these documents as part of creating your will, as these all go hand-in-hand.

c) If you do have them, just as with your will, when was the last time you looked at them? Apply the same rule of thumb for wills to these directives.

3. Beneficiaries:

a) This is an easily overlooked area.  We normally set beneficiaries on our 401(k) accounts when we first sign up at work, and then never look at them again.  This is the same scenario for our IRAs, Roth IRAs and brokerage accounts, as well as life insurance policies.

b) So, make a complete list of these, along with the company name and address where they are held and the account/policy numbers. Then confirm each account has primary and contingent beneficiaries listed per your current circumstances.  Make sure you understand how this integrates with the directives in your will.

4. Online Presence:

a) This is becoming a very important area to be managed. We all now use so many websites that require logins and passwords, but do we do a good job of maintaining a comprehensive list in a secure location?

b) What do we do about our social media sites should something happen to us? Have we left specific instructions for this?  We can consider including these in our wills.

Here at Avier, we review life planning with our clients on a regular basis.  While we cannot do the actual work for our clients, we certainly partner with them, acting as guides through the process, listening carefully and serving as objective sounding boards.  Sometimes, we are the needed “gentle nudge” to get the process started and completed.   We certainly understand this is time-consuming work, but we also know the peace of mind that our clients experience once all of this planning is in place.