As we know, Solo Ager estate plans are a bit trickier than other estate plans. We recommend that our clients take a look at their estate plan every 4 to 5 years. However, for Solos Agers, we suggest a light annual review.
1. Your Executor
The first thing you should review is whether your executor is still alive. This is important for Solo Agers because they often have non-traditional executors. Solo Agers often hire a professional executor like me because they don’t have family members who they feel comfortable appointing. This professional executor is probably not someone they keep in touch with on a daily basis.
Is your executor still living nearby? Perhaps if the executor has moved far away, it’s not practical to have them named in your will any longer.
Are you still confident your executor will fulfill his or her duties to your liking? Perhaps the executor is someone who is developing close relationships with relatives that you are planning to disinherit. Maybe your executor is getting older and declining. Maybe your assets have become more technologically advanced, and your executor isn’t familiar with the types of accounts you have (bitcoin, for example).
2. Who inherits
Again, you want to make sure that the beneficiaries of your will and/or trust are still alive. It sounds depressing to have to think about such things, but a 5-to-10-minute review of your documents could prevent a headache for your executor when you pass.
Are your beneficiaries still worthy of inheriting your money? Sometimes family members slowly stop keeping in touch with their aging relatives. As a Solo Ager, you may want to evaluate whether those people are still worthy of receiving your estate. Does it still make you feel good that you’re leaving your money to them?
You may have set up a trust for a beneficiary, or you may have chosen to give them their share outright. It’s best to re-evaluate to see if that choice is still appropriate for that beneficiary. For example, you may have chosen an outright distribution to someone who has since started having drinking problems or gambling issues. Perhaps you’ve left money to someone who needs asset protection. Now, a trust or some other planning tool may be better. On the other side, you may have put a minor beneficiary’s share in a trust, and now he or she is an adult who can handle money.
Many Solo Agers prefer to leave some money to charities. Take time to review if your charity of choice still exists and if it is still worthy of inheriting your money. Perhaps the charity was very efficient in serving the original cause, but now a change of management style has resulted in less money going toward the charitable cause itself.
Does the charity still align with your values? Have your passions or interest changed? Maybe when you created your will, you were really into pets, and you left a large share to the ASPCA. Maybe now your passion is something else that you’d rather leave your money to.
3. Your Guardian
You may not have a guardian in your estate plan. But, are you satisfied with what happens if you lose capacity? If you don’t have a trust or other mechanism in place, are you happy with the idea of a court-appointed guardian? You may have listened to our prior podcast in which we reviewed the Netflix move, “I Care a Lot.” The movie is obviously a dramatization, but it shows how bad it can be when the system takes over someone who doesn’t really need a guardian.
It’s best to have a plan in place now before the court decides it’s a good idea to appoint a stranger as your guardian. If you are unfamiliar with court-appointed strangers, we suggest you check our podcast on the topic.
In conclusion, an annual light review of your documents can go a long way in making sure your plan is strong. To learn about estate planning tips for Solo Agers, please check out my book, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan,” available on Amazon.
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