A few simple actions can make a world of difference to you and your family.

One of the most important things you can do for your financial health is to make sure your estate plan is up-to-date. So why does it always seem like such a burden to do so, even when you—or the world—experience a significant event that impacts your wealth?

Delaying or postponing revisions to your plan can result in many unwanted outcomes. Recent market conditions and the global pandemic have helped make this clear.

Here’s why we urge you to act immediately—and two important steps to consider taking to ensure your plan is up-to-date and supports your goals.    

One of the most important things you can do, especially now, is to fund a revocable trust.

Why? Because assets you place in a revocable trust are managed and distributed by the terms you created for that trust. If you become incapacitated or die, the revocable trust would provide for continuous management, protection of your assets and the help to assure that your estate plan would be executed according to your wishes.

If you have not created a revocable trust, speak with an estate planning lawyer to see whether one may be appropriate for you.

The story of one of our clients demonstrates why funding a revocable trust is incredibly important.

Patrick’s family recently and very suddenly lost him to COVID-19. Their grief was overwhelming, and unfortunately made worse when they discovered that, although their beloved Patrick had done some excellent estate planning, he had not yet attended to a key, final detail: He had not yet funded his revocable trust.

Patrick had planned to use his revocable trust to handle the disposition of his assets, so he hadn’t updated his will. It was not only out of date, but also incomplete: It failed to state precisely how he wanted his most current assets distributed.

Because the revocable trust was not funded, it was the outdated will that dictated the disposition of Patrick’s assets. More unfortunate: Because the courts were closed due to the pandemic when he died, there was no way to appoint anyone to manage Patrick’s assets. Meanwhile, market volatility caused the value of his estate to decline dramatically.

Had the revocable trust been funded, Patrick’s named trustee, J.P. Morgan, would have been able to quickly and seamlessly manage and distribute his assets in the way Patrick had intended, independently of the courts.

Perhaps you’ve gotten so far as to update all your estate planning documents, and have a funded revocable trust.

Another critical thing to consider doing right now is to make sure that the people you’ve named, as executor of your estate or trustee of your trusts, are still ready, willing and able to handle these duties.

It’s both an honor and a burden for any friend or family member to serve as an executor or trustee. The responsibilities are complex, time-consuming and laden with personal financial liability. One way to lighten that load, ensure professionalism, oversight and continuity, is to appoint a qualified corporate co-executor or co-trustee.

The story of another client shows how important it can be to have a corporate trustee:

Cindy thought she did the right thing: She created and funded a revocable trust. However, she named her son as her sole trustee, who sadly took advantage of the power he was given and began using the trust for his own benefit when Cindy became incapacitated. Cindy’s friends became aware of this and were so concerned that they asked the court to step in and remove her son as trustee. The court did so and asked J.P. Morgan to step in and act as Cindy’s trustee. 

Had Cindy originally named J.P. Morgan as co-trustee together with her son, we would have provided oversight and rigor to the administration of the trust and could have ensured that the trust was used only for Cindy’s benefit.

Even if you trust someone to be your executor or trustee, it may be extremely helpful to them and yourself to have a corporate co-trustee provide oversight and professional trust and estate management. 

Estate planning requires making big decisions that can have long-term effects on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Who will receive your assets? How quickly will they receive them? How will those assets affect your beneficiary’s day-to-day life? And who will make decisions about your assets?

There are also vital administrative details that can make a big difference—proper recordkeeping to ensure a seamless transition, holding your trust assets at your corporate trustee’s firm to avoid asset transfer delays, and more.

Stress testing your estate plan, and having a good estate plan in the first place, can help you ensure that your assets and family will be cared for as you wish, regardless of life or world events. By funding a revocable trust and appointing an experienced trustee, you can rest assured that dedicated professionals are working to ensure the intentions of your wealth are met and protected. J.P. Morgan can work with you and your estate planning lawyers to help make it so.

All examples are shown for illustrative purposes only, and are hypothetical. Any name referenced is fictional, and may not be representative of other individual experiences. Information is not a guarantee of success or future results.