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Check the Pulse of Your Estate Plan

Do you have an estate plan to prepare for your future, your estate, and your loved ones? Nobody likes to think about what will happen after they’re gone, but the truth is if you don’t take the time to put your affairs in order and dictate your wishes through a high-quality estate plan, you and your loved ones could stand to lose a substantial amount of assets through the probate process. You could also leave your loved ones with a stressful probate process to complete—something that could take months or even years to finish.

Even if you’ve created a will before or you think you’re too young to start planning ahead for your future, you need to make sure that your future is secure. If you’re not sure, we’ve developed a handy quiz you can take to find out just how healthy your estate plan is. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the simple 13-question yes-or-no question test that helps you check the “pulse” of your estate plan’s health.

1: Do you have a will? – This seems like the most obvious to place to start. Have you created a last will and testament? While most people know about this part of estate planning, the number of people who haven’t taken the time to do so is staggering. Without a will, your desires may not be carried out.

1a: If you have a will, has it been reviewed by an attorney in the last three years? – It’s a good idea to have a qualified attorney review your will at least every three years to make sure it’s still compliant with current laws and consistent with your goals.

2: Do you have a trust? – Wills lack the flexibility of trusts. If your plan requires flexibility and/or you would like to avoid probate, you should consider creating a trust.

2a: If you have a trust, has it been reviewed by an attorney in the last three years? – Much like your will, a trust needs to be reviewed by a lawyer periodically to make sure it’s still valid and consistent with your goals and desires.

3: If you have a trust, are your assets properly titled to the trust? – If you have a trust, you need to properly fund the trust with the assets you want to pass on through the trust.

4: Do you have a Power of Attorney? – There are three categories of powers of attorney (“POA”) in Arizona, including Financial POAs, Healthcare POAs, and Mental Health POAs, which are designed to give someone you trust power over your finances, health care, and mental health care if you can no longer express these wishes. POAs also offer an opportunity to document specific wishes, in advance.

4a: Are your designated agents relevant and appropriate? – The people you choose to grant power of attorney to should be appropriate and relevant to your life, such as a family member or close friend whom you trust to make difficult decisions for you.

5: Do you have financial accounts or insurance policies with beneficiary designations? – Life insurance policies can be valuable, but without a named beneficiary, your loved ones may face a long and arduous process to recover the proceeds.

5a: Are your beneficiary designations relevant and appropriate? – Your chosen beneficiaries from many years ago may not necessarily be relevant now. Are your beneficiaries who you still want them to be?

6: Do you have a Living Will/Advanced Healthcare Directive? – These documents express your wishes for what you want, or don’t want, in terms of medical care and treatment while you are still alive but no longer have the ability to express your wishes yourself.

6a: Has your living will/Advanced Healthcare Directive remained consistent with your wishes? – Have your wishes for what kind of care or treatment changed over the years? With medical advancements and new treatments, it’s certainly possible they could have.

7: Have you considered how you’ll finance your long-term care? – Medical care is expensive. Do you know how you’re going to continue to pay for your treatment long after you’ve stopped working?

8: Do you have a financial advisor, and have you met with them in the last 12 months? – A financial advisor who has a fiduciary duty to you is a valuable ally for money management. They have a legal obligation to ensure your best interests are watched over at all times.

Scoring Your Total

You should have answered each question with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Here’s the pulse of your estate plan:

8 to 13 “Yes” responses: Congratulations, your estate plan is actually in remarkably good health. You can never be too sure, however, so you might want to consider working on some of the questions you answered “no” to and having an experienced Phoenix attorney review your plan at least every three years.

4 to 7 “Yes” responses: Your estate plan needs some attention. While you’ve obviously put some thought into your future, there is still some work to be done, and you might be surprised to learn you’re not nearly as prepared as you thought.

0 to 3 “Yes” responses: Your estate plan is in dire need of resuscitation, which means you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Contact Taylor & Lihn, PLLC today at (602) 900-9860 to request a case evaluation and start building a high-quality estate plan or to simply have your existing plan reviewed by a skilled attorney!

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