A Five-Item Checklist For Legal Matters

By Member Lawyer

Proverbs 21:5 – “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

With a New Year here and plenty of uncertainties looming over the coming weeks and months, now is an appropriate time to take stock of present realities in our personal lives, including financial and legal realities.  Doing so will show us to be diligent stewards of the time, property and relationships God has entrusted to us.  It also tends to give us peace of mind by reassuring us that the foundations we’ve built in many areas of our life will be stable enough to benefit future generations.
With all of that in mind, make the time this month to check on the following five issues to be sure there aren’t steps that need to be taken in the very near future to prepare our affairs for ourselves to manage, or for others to manage in our absence.


1. Are Important Papers Accessible to Our Chosen Representatives?

Whether we have taken the time to prepare an estate plan or not is completely irrelevant if those we love and trust cannot locate our documents in the event of our departure.  In order to equip our executors to act in our absence, documents must be updated, organized and stored in a way that they will understand without us present to find and explain them.

Action Step: Make a folder explaining your assets and your documents for your potential executor and make sure they can get to it if need be.


2. Are Beneficiary Designations Up-To-Date?

Many wills and trust have been completely negated by the legal reality that an account with designated beneficiaries will be distributed to those beneficiaries regardless of what any will or trust attempts to say.  As such, it is imperative that each financial account’s beneficiary designations be reviewed annually.  This can often be done with a phone call or a login to a website but is far too often forgotten to the great frustration of many estate plans.

Remedy: Check beneficiary designations for all accounts.


3. Are Final Wishes Known and Written?

Very few of my clients have no personal opinion about how they wish to be remembered and how they wish for their remains to be treated after their death.  Strangely, however, very few write these wishes down, giving far too much opportunity for confusion or conflict at an already stressful time.

Remedy: Write down your wishes for or prearrange your funeral.


4. Are Charities Included In Estate Plans?

While most of us have charitable causes that are near and dear to our hearts, very few include those causes in our estate plans.  While a difference of $10,000 might not be of great consequence for an older adult beneficiary, it would be a great investment in a ministry or charity.  And while many rely on family members to make charitable gifts out of their estate, it almost never happens unless those charitable wishes are made part of a will or trust.

Remedy: Include charities in your estate plan IN WRITING.


5. Are Estate Documents Up-To-Date?

If an attorney has not reviewed your estate plan with you in the last 5-7 years, it is out of date.  Tt may also be out of date if there have been any changes in your life since the most recent revision.  Has anyone died, moved, or changed in their relationship to you or the Lord?  If so, a change in your estate plan may be necessary, or an entirely new plan due to a change in your situation or your wishes.

Remedy: Review your estate plan with your attorney, or set one up with an attorney if you don’t have one yet.


As limited-time stewards of the great resources and relationships God has entrusted to us, we are duty-bound to manage those resources and relationships well.  Take the time to take these five steps this month to be sure your financial and legal house is worthy of its true owner.

Trevor Neely
Author: Trevor Neely

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