“I want to make my [child’s, spouse’s, niece’s, friend’s] life easier.” This is the one of the most common reasons my clients list for why they want to create an estate plan. With the holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to review your big blue binder and ensure you have provided your friends and family the information they need to easily administer your carefully crafted plan.
Inform your family that you created an estate plan, and where you keep it
It is important for your backup decision makers to know that you have an estate plan, what kind of estate plan it is (trust versus will), and where you keep that estate plan. A few months ago, I wrote an article about where to store your estate plan; the holidays may be a perfect time to tell your loved ones about your plan, and show them where in your house you store the documents. Your family will appreciate knowing you have executed the legal framework necessary for them to care for you and your estate when you are no longer able to do so yourself.
Provide your family with helpful information
Even the best written estate plan can be difficult to administer if a trustee or executor cannot locate all of the assets and debts of an estate or trust. In the era of paperless statements and bills, compiling an inventory of assets and liabilities ahead of time can make administration far less stressful for your fiduciary. We encourage our clients to provide their fiduciaries with helpful information, such as a list of their advisors (financial advisor, accountant, etc.), their banks and financial institutions, if they have a safety deposit box (and if so, what is inside), where they store their computer passwords, and anything else they believe would be useful for their fiduciary in administration.
Write Letters of Instruction
Frequently, clients allow their fiduciaries discretion to execute their wishes; for example, a trustee may be the sole arbiter of when to invade the principal of a trust to provide for a minor beneficiary's needs. Writing a letter of instruction clarifying when and how to exercise that discretion provides your fiduciary with helpful guidance and you with peace of mind.
Make an appointment with your successor fiduciary and JGB
If you named a family member or friend as your successor trustee, he or she may not fully understand the duties of a trustee and how the trust operates. Some clients will organize a meeting between the client, the client’s successor fiduciary, and the client’s attorney. At this meeting, the attorney can explain to the successor fiduciary how the document works, and the fiduciary’s expected duties.
Finally, we have entered into the enrollment period for our 2017 TrustGuard™ program. If you are eligible, you should have received an enrollment letter earlier this month. TrustGuard™ is a voluntary program for JGB trust clients who want the opportunity to meet with their attorney annually to review their documents. If you anticipate making many adjustments to your trust, or if you want to formally review your documents annually, TrustGuard™ is a cost-effective way to keep your trust plan current.