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Five Tips for 2014

New Year's resolutions. We all have them; not all of us keep them. As an estate planning attorney, I am constantly advocating for the planning of the future today. The unexpected can happen at any time, so it is important to plan today for what may happen tomorrow. Something about the start of a new year makes us all want to tackle a new project, whether it is weight, organizational skills, a relationship, or whatever else that has been nagging at us for way too long.

Estate planning can be overwhelming, which is why many people put it off until it is too late. But, I urge you to consider estate planning like any other resolution. Take it one step at a time, tailor your approach to fit your needs and desires, and reach out for help if needed. Below are some quick and easy tips to get you started thinking about your new, New Year's resolution:

1) Review beneficiary designations.

Who will receive your life insurance payout? How about your stock proceeds? Often, a designation will be made and forgotten with the passage of time. Divorce, births, deaths and changes in relationships can alter one's wishes for who should receive benefits. Likewise, if you already have a Will in place, consider if the person who is named as an Executor or guardian for your children should remain the same in the coming year.

2) Think of your health.

It is already on many people's minds in January, but I am not talking about gym memberships or eating more greens. Consider creating a Living Will and designating a health care surrogate in case your health takes a turn for the worse. These two documents will go a long way in providing some peace of mind.

3) Consider your online assets.

Who, if anyone, will have access to your online accounts (i.e. email, EBay, your business's website) if you die? In 2013, this was a hot topic. There are now many new services and tools that enable you to take care of this quickly and easily. For more on the topic, see our previous blog post here.

4) Do it for the kids.

Those interested in creating an estate plan most often cite their children as the reason for doing so. How could you help your children now and after you are gone? By gifting money to their educational institution? Establishing a trust? Appointing a guardian? Your goals may change as your children age, so this issue may need to be revisited if there are provisions already in place for them.

5) Check for E-filing

All Kentucky courts are scheduled to use e-filing by 2015. If you need to file estate administration documents and are acting without an attorney's help, check to see if the county in which the documents must be filed is currently using e-filing. It can save you a trip to the court house and help you keep a better handle on documentation.

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Margaret S. Barr joined McBrayer in 2013 as an associate. She is a member of the firm's estate planning and administration practice group where she practices in virtually every aspect of estate planning & administration, including wills, trusts (qualified domestic trusts, educational trusts, dynasty trusts), powers of attorney, and advance directives. Ms. Barr can be reached at mbarr@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780, ext. 308.

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