Estate planning is NOT a “set it once and forget it” type of process. Your plan will likely need to be rejuvenated and renewed several times throughout your life. As such, it should be reviewed with a qualified estate planning attorney at least every few years to ensure the documents have not become outdated due to recent changes in the law and that they still support your overall planning goals.
When reviewing your estate plan, keep these ten important points in mind:
- Your estate plan only works if your assets are owned properly. If you have acquired new assets or sold assets you had at the time you made your plan, you will need to update your family wealth inventory spreadsheet (and you absolutely should have a family wealth inventory spreadsheet which lists all your assets) and retitle the newly acquired assets.
- Be sure your named fiduciaries are still the right people for the job. Your fiduciaries include the agents for your financial and healthcare powers of attorney as well as the executors or trustees of your estate. In addition, confirm all your fiduciaries know what to do if called upon and have access to the documents they would need if something happens to you (we take care of this by sending letters to all of our clients’ fiduciaries to introduce them to their roles and responsibilities and provide them with instructions).
- Determine if the terms of your estate plan still meet your objectives, and that the beneficiaries and your bequests are still up to date and relevant. Be sure to look at whether you are leaving assets to your beneficiaries in a lifetime asset protection trust that ensures what you pass on is protected from a future divorce, creditors or lawsuits.
- If you have minor children be sure you have a Kids Protection Plan in place naming short- and long-term guardians, providing instructions and guidelines for those guardians and including executed medical powers of attorney that allow you to dictate medical care for your minor children in case they are injured when you are not with them.
- Confirm all beneficiary designations for retirement plans, insurance policies and financial accounts are correct. Never name a minor child as the beneficiary (or even contingent beneficiary) of an insurance policy or retirement account.
- Be sure your healthcare and end of life decisions are still the right choices for you and that all the proper documents, including HIPAA waivers, have been executed to allow your agent to make health care decisions for you in case of incapacitation. Also, consider adding provisions to your health care directive that provide for HOW you want to be cared for, not just who you want making your decisions.
- If you plan to make gifts to individuals, see if you are taking full advantage of the maximum annual exclusion, which is $14,000 in 2015.
- If you make large gifts to charity, you may want to consider making split-interest gifts that provide an income tax deduction while preserving an interest in property to heirs.
- If you have already used a majority of your federal gift tax exemption, you may want to consider other strategies to move taxable assets out of your estate.
- Talk to your estate planning attorney about other estate planning strategies to take advantage of your generation-skipping transfer tax or remaining federal gift tax exemptions.
We review existing estate plans to ensure they meet these 10 criteria. We also perform a 50-point checkup on existing trusts. If you haven’t had a review of your existing estate plan within the last several years, you’re past due. Give us a call so we can help.
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