The end of the year will be here before we know it. But there is still time for you or your clients to get some major estate planning goals accomplished. Here are 5 things you or your clients should do before the end of 2013:

  1. Have your estate planning done. You should set the end of the year as a deadline to finally get this completed. Figure out why you have been procrastinating. If it is because you do not have an attorney, ask friends and acquaintances for referrals. If it is because you are not sure who you want to name as executor, trustee or guardian of your minor children, your attorney and/or advisor can help you decide. Remember, you can always change your mind later.
  2. Review and update your existing estate plan. Personal and financial circumstances will change throughout your lifetime. Your estate planning documents need to change along with them. Revisions should be made any time there are changes in your life and/or family (ie: birth, death, incapacity, marriage, divorce, etc.). If there are changes you want to share with family members, you can do that when they are home for the holidays.
  3. Secure and/or update health care documents. At the minimum, everyone over age 18 needs a Health Care Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney. The Health Care Power of Attorney gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death decisions) for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Included with the Health Care Power of Attorney should be a HIPAA authorization, which gives written consent for doctors to discuss your medical situation with others, including family members. The Durable Power of Attorney gives another person legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
  4. Review and/or update guardians for minor children. It is likely that the person you name as guardian for your children when they are younger will not be the best choice as they get older. Revisit your choice occasionally and name more than one in case your first choice cannot serve. Remember, if you have not named a guardian who is able and willing to serve and something happens to you, the Probate Court will decide who will be guardian of your children.
  5. Review and/or update beneficiary designations. This is especially important if your current beneficiary has died or if you are divorced and your current beneficiary is your ex-spouse.