I can report that I accomplished my first task of listing my assets and liabilities. I am struggling with establishing a budget of income and expenses. My family lives frugally and I know that we are able to pay our bills as they come due and save for big purchases, emergencies and retirement. However I have not put all of my income and expenses in a spread sheet and categorized the expenses. That is a long term project for me.
          My next task, and the one many people neglect or avoid, is to review how the assets are titled and how beneficiaries are designated. No matter how good intentioned, there are situations where the assets are not titled as originally intended or should be titled to fulfill the intended estate plan. I am the attorney on two probate cases that would not have had to be filed if all of the assets were properly titled, designated transfer on death and beneficiaries properly designated. As one estate planner has stated the worst estate plan is one that has been properly considered, executed and paid for; but the assets are not titled or designated to fulfill the plan.
          In my situation my wife and I have revocable living trusts. I have had to go through my assets to make sure our assets are titled in one of our trusts or are titled jointly with a designation payable on death to one of our trusts. In addition I have changed the contingent beneficiaries on our IRAs and insurance to our trusts.
          In reviewing your assets first look at financial statements to see how the institution shows the names on the account. If the names are not correct then the account needs to be reregistered. If there are multiple names on an account the designation of how the title is held is critical. Joint tenancy with right of survivorship should be stated and not just assumed. Accounts or assets payable on death or transfer on death to a person or trust must be shown in the institution’s records or a recorded document. There is no presumption that an asset will transfer to a trust or to another person on an owner’s passing. The real estate and personal property tax bill generally shows the owners of a property; however the deed, title document or title insurance policy will show the exact title to the property. For life insurance, 401k plans, IRAs and annuities the owner and beneficiary and contingent beneficiary designations must be correct. Generally the spouse should be the designated beneficiary and a trust as contingent beneficiary, if one is established.
          Good luck on your review of assets and contact me if you have any questions after your review.