“You make me feel so young, you make me feel like spring has sprung . . .” – The thin man from Hoboken (Frank Sinatra)
Another turning of the season of the year, and we prepare our hearts and homes for Easter and Passover, traditionally by engaging in ‘spring cleaning’. We examine those places that have become worn with use and spruce them up – or replace them.
As I’ve noted before, most of us who live in California and have created an estate plan have a Trust. Did you know that the technical name for the kind of Trusts most of us use is ‘Inter-Vivos Trust’? Lawyers love Latin in all its obscurity, but in plain English, an ‘Inter-Vivos Trust’ means ‘Living Trust’. These Trusts are called Living Trusts not only because we create and use them while we are alive, but also because they are supposed to be designed to have a life of their own – to grow and change with us and our families, as we grow and change.
Unfortunately, my frequent experience is that people with Living Trusts didn’t treat them as living things, but as an object that sits and gathers dust until needed. As I meet with people in my office after a death or other event, it is sometimes the case that even well-drafted Trusts and other documents fail to perform adequately because they sat and did not evolve with the needs of the family. Trusts need tune-ups, and sometimes renewal, and spring is the perfect time to review your documents with a knowledgeable estate and probate attorney. Tax season is surprisingly convenient for this vital practice, because you are already reviewing your finances and assets, too.
A good estate plan ‘spring cleaning’ would be to look at all of the following:
1. Review WHO you nominated as your Successor Trustees, Executors, Agents under your Durable Power of Attorney, health care decision-makers, and the Guardians of your minor children. Are these individuals still alive? Are they still capable of fulfilling the role you’ve trusted them to take on? Are they still the BEST people for that job? Do you have good alternate choices?
2. Review to WHOM your wealth will pass if you die, and HOW they are to receive it. Are these still the right people? Do you need to put specific restrictions and instructions in place for their benefit and safety? Or do previous restrictions no longer apply, so the use and benefit can flow most efficiently to your beneficiaries?
3. Review WHAT you own. Is title to your assets – especially to your real estate – still held in the Trust? A simple refinance or home equity line of credit can wreak havoc on a well-designed probate avoidance Trust. Have you acquired or changed life insurance, or retirement accounts – perhaps due to a job change? The beneficiary designations on such vehicles need to be carefully considered and properly take the Trust into account.
Our office always appreciates the opportunity to assist with ‘spring cleaning’ your estate plan … we can review your documents and make recommendations for the low fee of $250, which is then applied to any tune-ups or renewals that are called for. While you have your information at your fingertips for tax season, join with the spirit of renewal this season and make sure your estate plan is growing with you!
We are excited to introduce an attorney new to our office, Alex Bogdan. He is a Huntington Beach native who attended Marina High School but promises not to hold that against any Oilers who come to see us.