Resolve to get financial and other affairs in order for 2017

Michele Ungvarsky of Estrada Law is an estate planning attorney. She can be reached at 556-2462.
Michele Ungvarsky of Estrada Law is an estate planning attorney. She can be reached at 556-2462.
Wrap up 2016 with five smart estate-planning moves that will help you protect your assets, your family and start 2017 off on a solid foundation.

Have you or your loved ones experienced a notable life or financial change in 2016 such as the purchase or sale of real estate, the birth of a child, marriage, divorce or retirement? If so, it may be time to revisit your estate planning goals and legal documents before year’s end.

After tax and financial planning, estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal finance. It is not always pleasant to think about your eventual death or incapacity, taking care of your “legal business” every year is critical to ensuring your wishes, assets and family are protected if something happens.

Every adult must take some time this month to review any planning they may already have in place to make sure it still reflects their wishes and provides the proper protection for assets and loved ones. In addition, implementing the five following year-end moves is a great way to ensure you are starting 2017 with a rock-solid legal foundation in place.

1. Update beneficiary designations: It’s not uncommon for beneficiary designations on your IRA, 401(k), life insurance policies, or retirement plans to go unchanged for years, or even decades. This is the most common reason an inheritance can be “accidentally” left to an ex-spouse or someone you no longer want to inherit from you. It is well worth the time to make a quick call to your Human Resources department, financial planner or insurance agent to double-check beneficiary designations and make changes accordingly.

2. Revisit your will or trust: Having a will or trust is about so much more than who gets your “stuff ” after you die. Instead, think of your documents as vehicles that will help make life easy for your loved ones in case of your death, disability or incapacity. You are doing the people you love a huge favor by keeping such documents valid and up-to-date, so review your will and trust for any mistakes, errors or changes you want at year end. If you have minor kids, also use your will or trust to document whom you want to raise them if something happens to mom or dad.

3. “Refresh” your Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives: Like bread, legal documents can actually go “stale” after a number of years. This is especially true of documents such as Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives that can “expire” and be rejected by banks, hospitals or other financial institution. Get into the habit of contacting your lawyer every December or January to refresh any documents that may now be out of date.

4. Talk with loved ones about long-term care: Accidents and illness are unpredictable, and nursing home or assisted living can cost in upwards of $7,000- $12,000 per month. Medicare does not cover most long-term care costs, and Medicaid is need-based unless you plan ahead. Whether you want to stay at home for as long as possible if you get sick or you want to ensure you are never a burden to your family, it’s a good idea to discuss long-term care with your loved ones and financial professionals proactively, so you have a rough plan in place to more easily access and pay for any care you may need.

Let this be the year you take action!
Estate planning is an easy task to check off your “to-do” list, alongside last minute tax and financial moves before year’s end. It is a great idea to set aside some time to review all of your documents and policies, make updates, and meet with an attorney for the peace of mind of knowing your legal ducks will be in a row before the New Year begins. If you have questions about your plan, call Estrada Law, P.C. at 556-2462. Visit our website at for other helpful information about Estate Planning and Elder Law or to reserve your seat at our next no cost no obligation estate planning workshop.