Estate planning can be complicated and morbid to talk about. As a result, it’s often one of those items that gets put off. But the pandemic has caused many of our clients to ask about their estate plan.

An estate plan is a set of legal documents that lay out how to distribute assets at death. A completed estate plan includes several documents and is often accompanied with a summary memo that lays out the key points of the plan. The legal jargon is complicated, but the documents need to be detailed for them to work effectively.

The next time you go to review your estate plan, you may consider building out a simple flowchart to quickly understand how assets are distributed. A flowchart may preempt the need to read a long legal document that you may not understand anyway. Below is a simple flowchart for an estate plan.

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We like to focus on three scenarios:
  1. What happens if something happens to both of us?
  2. What happens if something happens to me?
  3. What happens if something happens to my spouse?

Once you lay out these scenarios, you may find that you need to make some changes to the current documents. A good rule of thumb is to review your current documents every three to five years. It may also be time to look at your estate plan if you’ve had significant changes to your financial circumstances or other life changes like a marriage or new additions to the family (i.e. grand kids, son/daughter in-laws, etc).

As with most financial planning matters, there may be nuances and complexities that are unique to your situation. If you need assistance flow-charting your current plan, please do not hesitate to reach out.

– by Richard O’Donnell