Trusts are a part of many people’s estate plans. They ensure your assets are protected in life and typically contain instructions for those assets after your death. But trusts are often not updated on a regular enough basis.
Because of their complex nature and financial impact on your family, keeping your trust updated ensures it will meet your needs when the time comes to access it. With the end of the year fast approaching, carve out a time to mark these items off of your year-end checklist for your trust.
Review big life changes
While you should always review your trust details at the end of each year, there are certain life events that almost guarantee you’ll need to update it. Typically, these types of events or circumstances are life-altering.
Specific family and life events that may require updates to your trust include:
Did you or a named beneficiary get married this year? Do you need to add someone as a beneficiary?
Did you or a named beneficiary get divorced this year? Do you need to remove someone as a beneficiary?
- Death or illness of a beneficiary
Do you need to update your power of attorney, executor, or trustee?
- Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
Did your family grow this year? Do you need to add someone as a beneficiary?
- Named child or grandchild comes of age
Has a named minor reached an age milestone spelled out in your trust?
- Change of relationship with people or organizations
Is there a benefiting charity named in your trust that you no longer wish to support?
- Purchase of a major asset
Do you need to protect new assets?
- Sale of a major asset
Do you need to remove assets?
- Move to a new state
Some states have different laws regarding trusts – do you need to update any affected part?
- Change in tax law
Does any newly passed legislation affect your will?
You probably can answer most of these questions, but check with your estate accountant for updates on relevant state and tax laws.
Check out our article here for a more in-depth guide on life events that mean you should update your trust.
Review the trust document
You should always hang onto your original signed trust documents. When you make any updates to the trust, add the new documents to your original file. It’s also a good idea to make a digital copy of it for your estate planning records in case of an emergency situation, like a flood or fire. A good rule of thumb is to keep one digital record on a physical hard drive and one stored in a secure cloud-based storage system. Double check your digital records are intact as a part of your year-end checklist for your trust.
Review beneficiary information
During the year, you may have had some life changes that would cause you to update the named beneficiaries on your trust. Name changes, marriages, divorces, and new additions to the family like grandkids all require updating. Specifically make sure your life insurance policies, bank and brokerage accounts, employer-sponsored retirement accounts, and any annuities are updated with current-year beneficiary information.
Review asset information
Purchasing new assets or selling off old ones requires updating your trust. Especially with new assets, you want to be sure all of your owned items are covered. These big ticket fixed assets include houses, buildings, cars, and machinery.
Review life insurance & disability information
Life insurance policies provide financial stability to your family and loved ones after your death. It’s a good idea to check on your policy terms, value, end dates, and beneficiary information at year-end.
Disability documents provide instructions regarding your care should you become incapacitated or disabled. You can direct your care through your trust with a few essential documents:
- Power of attorney
Who will manage your estate if you are no longer able to?
- Medical directive
How would you like to be medically cared for if you are not able to voice your decisions?
- Guardianship directive
Who will become the guardian to your minor children in the event you become incapacitated or disabled?
As a part of your year-end checklist for your trust, go through all documents related to your life insurance and disability plans.
Make trust-related payments
You may have a trust that is already making payments to beneficiaries. Payments to trust administrators, other third parties, and quarterly tax payments are often made. Review the payments that have gone out this year and earmark any others that still need to be distributed.
Complete your records
No year-end checklist for your trust would be complete without a recommendation to get your records in order. Make sure you have all payment receipts, tax returns, promissory notes, related loan documents, and documents supporting any changes you’ve made to your trust. Keep them tidy and organized for your tax accountant. Again, keeping digital copies of all documents is a very good idea!
We’re here to help you prepare your estate planning for the new year. As you start ticking items off your year-end checklist for your trust, be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.