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By Kenneth Kirk
For Senior Voice 

It may be time for a legal spring cleaning


April 1, 2024 | View PDF

Sometimes the near future is predictable, and sometimes it ain't.

I was planning to write another column about the filing requirements which would apply to nearly all small corporations and LLCs under the new Corporate Transparency Act. But then, about a week ago as I am writing this, a federal judge ruled that the CTA was unconstitutional. I could easily write a whole column on how that works, and what the likelihood is of it being overturned, but by the time you read about it that would probably be old news. On these politically charged cases, appeals can happen with lightning speed. I can't predict what the situation will be a few weeks from now when you read this issue.

So I will post about it on Facebook instead, since everybody promptly forgets what they read on social media anyway.

Yes, sometimes the future is hard to predict. On the other hand, some things are not hard to predict. When this issue comes out, around the end of March, we will most likely be on the edge of that wonderful Alaska season called breakup. It is the time when it is below freezing at night but above freezing during the day, when the accumulated dirt, litter and dog poop rises to the surface, and everything is gray and ugly. But it also means that spring is just around the corner.

And spring is, among other things, the time for spring cleaning. So how about cleaning up your estate plan?

Periodically I use this column to remind people of the need for estate planning. I'm sure that a lot of people who read those columns think “Hah! Those irresponsible Bozos! I got my estate planning done years ago.”

And that's fine, but like everything else you have, you occasionally need to make sure it is in working order. If your car has been sitting in the garage for a year, it might not do what you need it to do when you want to drive somewhere.

But what exactly is it you should be doing? What does spring cleaning mean in this context?

Start by looking over your documents. You probably have at least a will, a power of attorney, and maybe an advance health care directive. You might possibly have a living trust as well. Take a look at those and see if they still do what you want.

The most critical thing to look at is who you have named to do things for you. On the will that would be the executor or personal representative, on other documents it will be the agent. If you did your will 20 years ago, there is a good chance that the people you listed are deceased, or too old, or perhaps you've lost touch. If your children were young and irresponsible then, but are more mature now, do you want to make them the agents?

On your will or living trust, also look at who you are leaving things to. For example if you left everything to your children only, back when they were young and you weren't really thinking about grandchildren yet, you might need consider whether, if a child dies and leaves children of their own, you want something going to those grandchildren. Or perhaps you have left part of your estate to someone who is estranged from you, or has substance abuse problems, or has passed on.

Aside from looking at the documents, look at your assets. You might have designated death beneficiaries (or “PODs”) on your accounts. If that is out of date, it can throw your whole estate plan out of whack. If you have a living trust, have you acquired assets which you did not put into the trust? For instance when you bought that cabin out in Big Lake, did you put it into the trust, or is just in your own name?

You may or may not need to go see the attorney and revise documents, but at least dust a few things off to start with.

Kenneth Kirk is an Anchorage estate planning lawyer. Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for a specific situation; for specific advice you should consult a professional who can take all the facts into account. You can clean up the back yard after that.


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