It’s impossible to predict what the new year has in store for us. However, if you follow some (or all) of these tips, 2024 should bring you greater protection and peace of mind.
Update your estate plan.
We’ve said it before, but as an estate planning firm dedicated to making sure your plan unceasingly addresses your goals and preserves your interests, we’ll say it again: Don’t let your plan become obsolete. It is imperative to review your plan whenever changes have taken place in your life. Has your financial or medical situation changed since your plan was created? Have any of your children gotten divorced and remarried, or started families of their own? Do your beneficiary designations continue to reflect your wishes? Are all of your trusts properly funded? Your estate plan must take all these issues, and more, into account for it to achieve your goals. The reality is an outdated or improperly designed plan is often worse than having no plan at all. This is a great time of year to review your plan and make necessary changes.
Inform your loved ones you have a plan.
You can have the best estate plan in the world but if nobody knows about it, or can’t find it in an emergency, your plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. We advise our clients to write a letter to loved ones informing them you have a plan and documenting important information such as:
- The names and contact information of attorneys, wealth managers, bankers, CPAs, insurance agents, and other key advisors
- The location of your planning documents, particularly your will, powers of attorney and medical advance directives
- The location of financial information like bank accounts, pensions, IRAs, and insurance policies
- Medical information including the names of your physicians, your insurance company, the medications you take, and your pharmacy
Share your passwords.
Chances are you have so many passwords it’s almost impossible for you to keep track of them. Now’s the time to make that master list with all your usernames, passwords and security questions in one document, and, most importantly, to let your loved ones know where to find it.
Review your asset allocation.
The start of the new year is an excellent time to reassess your investment portfolio to ensure your asset allocation is where it should be to accomplish your investment goals. Additionally, a stock, mutual fund or other investment that out-performed the market two years ago may not have done as well in 2023. If so, take a long, hard look at it.
Make a detailed monthly and annual budget.
One of the greatest fears among retirees and seniors is outliving one’s life savings. If you haven’t done so already, create a detailed monthly and annual budget. If you already have a budget, be sure to update it to account for any changes in your income or unforeseen expenses.
Take a home inventory for insurance purposes.
What is the precise value of all the “stuff” you’ve accumulated over the years? If you’re unsure, it’s time to find out. Photograph your valuable belongings, organize and collect all the pertinent documentation about them, and have them professionally appraised. Then, be sure to update your property insurance.
Start a conversation.
Writing a letter to your loved ones informing them you have a plan is one thing. Talking to them about the details of your plan is another beast entirely. While such a conversation is infinitely more difficult than writing a letter, the rewards of doing so can be substantial. It is entirely possible that your children would like to know, for example, how you wish to be cared for in the event of incapacity. Similarly, your children may wonder about your financial situation. Is your house paid for, or are you carrying a mortgage that will need to be covered if you pass away suddenly? Have you created a will or trust, and if so, do your children stand to inherent any assets? Your children may be hesitant to ask questions such as these for fear of appearing greedy or insensitive. Yet they may also need this information to do proper estate planning of their own.
We understand how difficult it is to begin conversations of this nature and can help you find the best ways to broach them with your loved ones. Experience tells us that families who are able to open up in this manner draw closer together and feel a sense of relief afterwards.