Spring Cleaning Your Estate Plan: 5 Tips for Getting Organized and Preparing for the Future

estate planning tips

Ahhh, spring—the beginning of a new season. And for many, the beginning of their spring cleaning. In fact, March is officially “Spring Cleaning Month.”

Signifying cleaning out the old and bringing in the new, spring cleaning also happens to be the perfect time to get organized and plan for the future.

Are you ready to tackle your estate plan?

For many of us, estate planning can feel like a daunting task. It requires careful consideration, thoughtful decision-making, and an understanding of complex legal terminology.

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced planner, the following tips will help make sure that everything is in order so that your wishes are carried out when the time comes.

In this article, we’ll discuss ways to review existing documents, determine what needs updating (or creating), identify important players involved in carrying out your wishes, explore different types of assets, and more!

Read ahead for valuable insight into ensuring your legacy is secure.

1. Define Your Estate Plan

When it comes to estate planning, the first step is defining your estate plan.

This can include:

  • Understanding what assets and liabilities are involved in forming your estate
  • Creating a will or trust that works for you and your family’s needs.
  • Designing an appropriate distribution of those assets among beneficiaries
  • Determining who should be appointed executor of the estate when needed

To ensure that all aspects of your plan are correctly outlined, you should also consider consulting with experts such as attorneys and financial advisors.

These professionals can provide insight into tax regulations, real-estate laws, and other things related to establishing an estate plan that meets both short-term and long-term goals.

2. Assess Your Current Estate Plan

Now that you understand what defines your estate plan, it’s time to assess where things currently stand. This means taking stock of all the documents and accounts you currently have in place.

Look over what you’ve got and ask yourself if these items are still up-to-date with your wishes for how assets should be handled after death.

Review paperwork like:

  • Wills or trusts, if applicable
  • Insurance policies
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Other relevant legal documents

Does your current plan meet your needs? Is there an opportunity to save more money or protect your family from probate? If so, it may be time to bring in an experienced attorney.

3. Update Your Beneficiaries

Updating your beneficiaries is one step you can take right now to get your affairs in order. To ensure that any assets you have been transferred to the people or organizations you want them to go to, ensure all of your listed beneficiaries on documents like insurance policies and IRA accounts are current.

You should also check with the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you receive benefits since additional forms may be needed to designate a beneficiary.

Taking this proactive approach sooner rather than later helps streamline the process and makes things easier in the long run – both emotionally and financially – for everyone involved.

4. Set Up a Trust for Your Assets

Once you have updated your beneficiaries, the next step to spring-cleaning your estate plan is to set up a trust for your assets. A trust is the single-most important legal document for protecting and managing your wealth both now and in the future. 

It allows you to ensure that the people or organizations who are supposed to receive your money will get it according to your wishes and avoid probate court. Creating a trust requires careful consideration of how best to protect any property or assets you wish to place into it. 

Before starting, you should: 

  1. Research different types of trusts (revocable vs. irrevocable)
  2. Decide on trustees
  3. Understand what taxes may apply
  4. Consider working with an estate planning lawyer so they can explain all details about setting up a trust properly

Having this legal structure in place will give you extra peace of mind knowing that your legacy is secure and organized for years down the road.

5. Review Your Estate Plan Regularly

Reviewing your estate plan regularly is essential to ensure that it remains up-to-date with current laws, regulations, and procedures. While this may seem intimidating, recognizing its importance will help you stay organized and prepared for the future.

By reviewing your estate plan regularly, you also take the necessary steps to ensure that your assets are properly handled according to your wishes. This includes evaluating family size or structure changes, assessing whether new investments have been made, or if a change in tax law could affect how funds are distributed.

Start Planning for Your Future Today — Call Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law

Estate planning can be daunting, but by taking the time to properly organize and update your plan, you can ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.

Spring is a great time for individuals to review their estate plans and make sure everything is up-to-date. Taking these steps now will help ensure that future generations benefit from the security and financial stability provided by having an organized and well-executed estate plan.

Start planning your future today—call our estate planning attorneys at Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law.

Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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