Once the estate planning documents are printed and signed, many think the job is done. However, this is just the beginning of the next phase of estate planning. Without follow-through you may not accomplish all you set out to do. After setting the plan in place, implementation must begin. Assets may need to be retitled, beneficiaries updated on retirement plans, IRAs, annuities, and insurance policies. In addition, meetings may need to be held with future trustees, custodians and guardians to make sure they understand your intent and wishes.
The first step is to determine what bank and investment type accounts are in place. If you have set up a living or revocable trust, your accounts should be retitled into the trust’s name, if appropriate. Accounts held outside of a trust can be set to transfer on death or be payable on death to your beneficiary or beneficiaries. If this is not your intent, it can defeat your estate plan.
Real estate titles should also be checked to determine if any changes need to be made. This is a simple process and can avoid future unintended consequences particularly if the property is not located in your state of residence.
Retirement plan, IRA, annuity and insurance policy beneficiaries should also be reviewed to determine if they agree with the estate plan. The listing of both primary and contingent beneficiaries allows for more flexibility at death on the allocation of those assets.
Meeting with future trustees and asset custodians to express your wishes and the meaning of trust provisions is helpful to them in carrying out your wishes. Discussing your thoughts, wishes and goals with guardians will allow them to better oversee your care or the care of your dependents. Providing the guardian with insight as to what assets will be provided for their charge’s care is important.
Finally, making a list of where all important documents are kept and the list of your advisors is useful to your loved ones in a time of intense grief. Included should be a list of bank and investment accounts, safety deposit box information, and all insurance policy information.
Following through to complete the final steps of your planning once the ink is dry on the documents is a necessary but often forgotten task that will assure your estate plan goals are met.