Finally finishing an estate plan is an accomplishment. This is a complex set of legal documents that probably took a long time to compile and complete.
However, when you are finished with your estate plan, are you really finished?
In short, no.
There are a few additional steps you need to take to make sure your estate plan is effective and secure, even after it is initially finished.
Make sure everything is there
The very first step you should take after finishing an estate plan is to make sure it is really finished. There are multiple components of an estate plan and you want to ensure you really completed all of them. The documents you should have in a comprehensive estate plan are:
- Last will and testament
- Advance health care directives
- Living will
- Powers of attorney – there are a few potential options
- Trusts (optional)
For most people, these are the building blocks of a good estate plan. Be sure you have each of these documents included, well thought-out and completed in your plan.
Next, you will need to decide where to store your estate plan. You need to keep it in a secure place. The location should be locked, with little accessibility, and weather/disaster-proof.
A few good ideas are a fire-proof box in a secure place in your home or a safety deposit box at a local bank. Be sure the people who need access, have a key to and know the location of the documents.
You can make copies of these documents for reference, but the originals should be well-guarded so they can be effective when you need them.
One of the most important after-care steps for your estate plan is regular reviewing. You might think you never need to think about it again, but this is not true. As a general rule, you should check your estate plan every three to five years.
There are also a few life-changes that should prompt updating and review. Divorce, marriage, birth, death, changing tax laws and gaining assets are a few events that should spark a change.
After putting in the work of creating your estate plan, you do not want it to go to waste. Post-estate planning is also important. Do not neglect your plan after it is finished.