You did it! You took that often-dreaded step and worked with a lawyer to create your estate plan, which includes a will, an advanced health care directive, and possibly a trust or two. You have your estate planning documents in hand, and you feel a great sense of relief and accomplishment.
But now what? Is that it?
Absolutely not. There are steps you must take after you sign your estate plan to make it effective.
6 Steps to Take After Signing Your Estate Planning Documents
- Put your will somewhere safe. Make sure to place your estate plan documents in a safe location. Many individuals opt for a safety deposit box at the bank. If you choose this route, choose a trusted, second individual to list on the box and give that person a key. You need to make sure your loved ones can access your documents after you pass or become incapacitated.
- Give your health care directive to your care team. Keep the original for yourself, but give copies to your primary care physician, the administrators at your preferred hospital and any medical specialists that you see on a regular basis. This is key to ensuring you and your medical providers are on the same page.
- Update your beneficiary designations. You likely made some changes or expansions to your beneficiary designations when you created your will. Now is the time to update those designations on your 401(k), IRA, pensions, life insurance, and other related accounts.
- Retitle assets to fund your trust(s). If you built in a trust within your will, you need to take active steps to fund that trust. This means retitling assets such as the family home in the name of your trust, instead of the name of any given individual. If you are confused about how to go about this process, your lawyer will provide you with step-by-step guidance to help you do this effectively.
- Communicate your wishes with your loved ones. You have taken great care to make serious decisions that affect you and your loved ones’ futures. Sit down with your loved ones and tell them what decisions you have made and why you have made them. This will help them avoid most conflicts that could otherwise arise after you pass.
6. Review your plan annually. Schedule an appointment for yourself in one year’s time to revisit your estate plan. Review it to ensure that it is still accurate. If it is not, call your estate planning attorney for assistance in making effective updates that will keep your plan valid and executable.