All of us know the Christmas song The 12 days of Christmas. Keeping with the holiday theme, I have come up with "The 12 Keys to Proper Estate Planning." This brief but very important listing applies to just about everyone, young or not-so-young, as well as the wealthy and the somewhat less-than-wealthy.
1. An up-to-date Will or Living Trust
2. Comprehensive and up-to-date Durable Power of Attorney
3. Up-to-date state-specific Health Care Power of Attorney
4. Up-to-date state-specific Living Will
5. HIPAA Authorization
6. Beneficiary Designations for life Insurance and retirement accounts coordinated with plan
7. Assets titled properly (e.g., in living trusts).
8. NO joint accounts except for very small amounts.
9. Sufficient liability insurance coverage
10. Consideration of estate, gift and income taxes
11. Use of trusts to protect inherited assets
12. A relationship with an experienced estate planning attorney who is available to provide counsel after your plan is completed.
Happy holidays to all! Relax and enjoy family, friends, food and drink for a few days, but make it your New Year’s resolution to complete or update your estate plan early in ’09.