Estate Planning and Legacy Law Center, PLC

Your 5 Task Year-End Estate Planning To-Do List

 

2019 is fast approaching.  As we all prepare for the holidays and a new year, it is important that we wrap up any loose strings.  Before entering into the new year, here are some things that need to be on your end of year checklist:

 

  1. Make Sure Your Estate Planning is Up To Date

 

Will or Trusts

 

Now that the federal estate tax exemption is fixed at $10 million per person adjusted for inflation ($11.18 million in 2018), it is important that you review your estate planning to ensure that it still makes sense. For example, when reviewing your estate planning documents, look for such terms as “Marital Trust,” “QTIP Trust,” “Spousal Trust,” “A Trust,” “Family Trust,” “Credit Shelter Trust,” or “B Trust.” With the exemption amount so high, it may not be necessary to utilize these planning strategies anymore.

 

In addition, you will want to make sure those individuals you have appointed to serve as your fiduciaries (successor trustee, agent under a financial power of attorney, patient advocate, trust protector, etc.) are still able to act on your behalf if the need arises.

 

Lastly, if your family has gone through any changes such as a birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc., you will want to double check the distribution scheme in your will or trust to make sure that the beneficiaries are still those you would like to leave assets to.

 

Health Care Directives

 

While the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (known as “HIPAA” for short) was enacted in 1996, the rules governing it were not effective until April 14, 2003.  Thus, if your estate plan was created before then and you have not updated it since, you will definitely need to sign new health care directives so that they are in compliance with the HIPAA rules.

 

With that said, it’s possible that health care directives signed in 2003 or later lack HIPAA language, so check with us just to make sure that your estate plan documents reference and take into consideration the HIPAA rules.

 

Financial Power of Attorney

 

How old is your Power of Attorney? Because of liability risks, banks and other financial institutions are often wary of accepting Powers of Attorney that are more than a couple of years old.  This means that if you become incapacitated, your agent may have to jump through hoops to get your stale Power of Attorney honored, if it can be done at all. This could cost your family valuable time and money.

 

And, several states have enacted new laws governing Powers of Attorney.  If you want to increase the likelihood that your Power of Attorney will work without any hitches, then redo your Power of Attorney every few years so that it doesn’t end up becoming a stale and useless piece of paper.

 

  1. Check Your Beneficiary Designations

 

Another area of estate planning that needs revisiting at the end of the year are your beneficiary designations on any life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, vehicles, or real estate.  If you have previously completed the forms for any of these assets, you should review them to ensure the beneficiary named is still the person(s) you want receiving the assets.

 

If you have not done so already, you also should make sure that your estate planning attorney has this information as well.  Because a beneficiary designation may overrule any provisions you have in your will or trust, it is important that your designations and other estate planning documents all match and carry out your objective instead of having contrary intents.

 

  1. Gather Tax Documents for 2018 Income Tax Return

 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made several changes to the tax code, which may make filing your income taxes for 2018 a little different.  Because of these changes, it would be prudent to spend a little extra time collecting the necessary paperwork to show your income and any deductions you may be claiming instead of waiting until the last minute.

 

  1. Review Car and Homeowners Insurance Policies

 

Everyone likes to save money and an easy way to do so is to call you insurance agent.  Analyze the coverage you currently have for your home and car to see if you are properly covered and to see if there are any additional savings available to you.  Sometimes, you can save money by having more than one policy through an insurer.  You may also be able to get a reduction on your rates if you have not filed any claims within a specific period of time.  You never know unless you ask.

 

  1. Review Your Paycheck Withholdings

 

When it comes to your 401(k), IRA, and Health Savings Account, the federal government allows you to contribute a maximum amount per year pre-tax.  As we approach the end of the year, it is a good idea to review how much you have contributed and see if you are able to give more.  Because this is done pre-tax, it is a good way to put more money away for your retirement or future medical needs while saving some money on your tax bill now.

 

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Planning on Giving Money This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time to enjoy friends, family, and loved ones. Often we consider our life circumstances and may get in the spirit of giving. This is particularly true if you are at a point in your life were you have enough from a financial standpoint. If you are planning on giving money as a gift this holiday season, below are five things to consider.

 

What to Consider When Giving

 

Sharing your resources – whether money, vehicles, property, or other assets – in a manner that is both simple and smart as well as financially prudent can prove complicated. Accordingly, there are several things to consider such as what the gift is for, the type of gift, and if the gift is for charity. Below are five common scenarios:

 

  1. You Want to Create a Foundation or Give to Charity: You do not have to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to be charitable. Through a donor-advised fund (DAF), which are like charitable savings account, you can benefit from an immediate tax deduction for any cash or investments placed in the fund. Of note, any money sitting in a DAF must be donated to charity but any money sitting in the fund can be invested tax free. Notably, changes in tax law make charitable giving different from a tax perspective than prior years. If you want to get a deduction or want to use your IRA to make the gift and you are over 70 ½, you should seek guidance.

 

  1. Grandchildren Need Tuition for College: Consider a 529 College Savings Plan – where the money grows tax free and can also be withdrawn tax free when applied to qualified educational expenses – as a way to save for a child’s future education. There are also tax-free withdrawal benefits for pre-college education, depending on applicable state law. While a grandparent can create an account for a grandchild, contributing to a plan created by the parent can help reduce offsets on any potential financial aid award granted to the child. If your child or grandchild is already in college, consider making payments directly to the institution to avoid gift tax issues.

 

  1. Your Car or Boat is Not Being Used: One option is to gift the property, making sure title is officially transfer and filing a gift tax return if the fair market value is above a certain amount.  If you instead are passing along the old car or boat worth more than $15,000 to a family member, make sure to let your tax preparer know so they can file any necessary gift tax returns. (You probably won’t owe any gift tax, but filing the return is a way to protect yourself from the IRS.) Alternatively, the property may be donated to a charity to receive a possible tax benefit. What the charity does with the property – in other words, uses it for the organization or sells it at a low price – can affect your tax benefit and how much the charity ultimately gets.

 

  1. The Next Generation & the Vacation Home: First, make sure to ask whether or not your loved one wants the home. You may be surprised that they do not and, in that case, sell the property. If they do, however, make sure to work out issues in advance that may arise from the transfer of property. One way to minimize issues is to transfer title to an LLC and give LLC ownership to the children, spelling out each member’s rights and responsibilities regarding the property. You should also address what happens if someone wants to sell his or her portion and exclude spouses from the universe of eligible owners in the even of a divorce. These can be complex transactions, even for seemingly simple circumstances, so always speak with an attorney before transferring property into or out of an LLC.

 

  1. Your Kids Have Different Needs: Sometimes fair does not mean equal. This is particularly true if your children have different levels of need due to a disability, younger age, or better financial stability. For some children, it may be necessary or advantageous to gift a portion of his or her inheritance prior to your death because of immediate need. Whatever your reasons, the division of your estate is up to you. While you cannot prevent dissatisfaction among your children once you are gone, you can try to minimize these issues. One way is to leave a letter behind explaining your motivations and adding a no-contest clause in the will.

 

Estate Planning Help

 

While gifting may be the right thing to do, it needs to be done so that everyone, including you, gets the maximum benefit. The tax implications to you depends upon the purpose of your gift, the type of gift, and whether the gift is to charity. We can advise you on your options under applicable law and what tools you can use so that everyone benefits the most from your generosity.

Giving Thanks with your Estate Plan

Estate planning covers more than just financial matters. Indeed, many use their estate plan to pass along their values as well as their wealth. One way to do this is to give thanks with your estate plan, by designating charitable giving or specific gifts that will help ensure your legacy. It is important, however, to balance your income and the needs of your beneficiaries with the available tax incentives.

 

Your Legacy

 

While the general purpose of estate planning is to ensure you and your family are taken care of when most needed, you do not need to contain your estate planning to financial issues. Indeed, many individuals use estate planning to pass along family history and traditions through their giving. An estate plan may specify how a beneficiary can use their inheritance such as for studying abroad, embarking on a particular trip, or other values that are important to the giver. In addition, you can choose to give to a qualified charitable organization in your will so that the gift is distributed upon your death or incapacity. Giving to charity during your life or after you have gone can help significantly reduce federal estate and gift taxes and allows you to support charitable causes that are meaningful to you.

 

One way to pass along your values as well as your wealth is an incentive trust. An incentive trust is a type of trust that includes provisions that reward a beneficiary for achieving a specified range of desired goals or behaviors. The trust may also indicate how the money may be distributed. Another estate planning tool is the charitable lead trust, which allows payments to be made to the charity during the settlor’s lifetime. When the settlor passes away  – or at the end of a shorter term of the settlor’s choosing – the remainder of the assets in the trust go to the decedent’s estate, his or her spouse, or other beneficiaries. A third way to continue your legacy is through a donor-advised fund. A donor-advised fund is similar to a charitable investment account with the specific purpose of supporting charitable organizations. Pre-funded charity gifts can help your family decide which organizations will be financially supported.

 

These are just some of the estate planning tools available for charitable giving and allowing you to pass along values and give thanks with your estate plan.

 

Estate Planning Professionals

 

No matter what your goals regarding your estate plan, it is important to craft a plan that takes advantages of the tools and tax benefits available to you under applicable law. We can explain the options available to you and your family, and help create the best plan to suit your needs. Give us a call today.

Three Tips for Talking about your Estate Plan during the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner, bringing the joyous season of gathering with family and loved ones into full swing. It is the time to slow down, get caught up with loved ones, and enjoy the family and experience quality time around the dinner table. It is also a great idea to take this opportunity to review your estate plan and talk about the topic with your loved ones.

 

Do Not Be Indifferent

 

While the entire topic of estate planning can be a touchy subject, covering your eyes about the issue is not good for you or your family. According to a Caring.com survey from 2017, as many as six in 10 Americans do not have an estate planning document put together –  like a will or a trust. This is particularly alarming when it is estimated that $30 trillion in wealth is set to transfer between baby boomers and their heirs in the next few years. Accordingly, it is vital that families discuss estate planning well in advance of an emergency or life tragedy – while the eldest members of the family are still physically and mentally healthy. Leaving the topic to chance can result in disastrous or costly outcomes.

 

Time it Right

 

Not surprisingly, estate planning is a topic that does not come up in everyday conversation. And randomly informing your loved ones who will get your things when you die or if you become incapacitated will likely damper the holiday spirit.

 

There are ways, however, to discuss estate planning during this season with grace and tact. Instead, choose or make a time when you and your loved ones can be together and talk within a comfortable, calm, and private environment. Make sure that everyone is relaxed and distractions are at a minimum so the conversation stays on track.

 

In an ideal situation, the parents – or the elders – will bring up the subject. Sometimes, however, they refuse to discuss estate planning. In such a case, children have to broach the subject. Asking where important papers and records are kept is a great start.

 

Boundaries Are Important

 

Once you find the time, place, and opportunity for the conversation about estate planning to happen make sure to set down some ground rules. Keep the discussion as transparent as possible, perhaps by having each family member address their thoughts, questions, or wishes and discuss together. Some items that may be on the list to discuss may include:

 

  • Notifying them that you have a will or living trust that spells out how assets will be divided when you die or become incapacitated;
  • Letting them know who will act as the executor of your will or trustee of your trust;
  • Discussing who will serve as your agent under your financial power-of-attorney and patient advocate under your healthcare power-of-attorney; and
  • Explaining to your family how to handle any medical or long-term care situations, if necessary.

 

Bottom Line

 

While discussing estate planning needs can be straightforward and simple, the conversation can quickly become complicated when personalities clash or emotions get in the way. The main goal is to let your family and loved ones know you have a plan, without needing to go into detail about the plan’s contents. We can help parents and children come together and create an appropriate plan that will meet your family’s short- and long-term estate planning needs.

 

Your 2018 Taxes - Get Started Now

While the end of the year is not quite here yet (but rapidly approaching), now is an opportune time to take a moment and start your year-end tax planning for 2018. This is particularly necessary this tax year because of the changes to the tax law that became effective in 2018. As a result of the significant changes in the law, your taxes may look different this year, so you should allow for some extra time in the preparation. Getting started early is even more essential if you are a business owner, have moved to another state, or plan to make charitable contributions before the year ends.

Things to Consider

Now is the best opportunity to make use of tax strategies to take advantage of tax-deferred growth opportunities, charitable-giving opportunities, as well as tax-advantaged investments among others. During this tax planning process, you will also want to make sure you maximize deductions and credits ahead of the busy tax season. As you consider your year-end options, make sure to sit down with your attorney or other advisors to review your investments to ensure they still align with your goals, the economic landscape, and the current tax law. This conversation can help you identify where adjustments may be necessary for the future.

What You Need

Know that the “traditional” year-end planning we’ve recommended for years still applies to your 2018 taxes. Make sure you are harvesting losses to offset your gains, are contributing the appropriate amount to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and/or Health Savings (HSA) accounts, and have taken the necessary required minimum distribution from your IRA (if this applies to you). Other things to consider is fully funding employer-sponsored retirement plan contributions such as 401(k, 403(b) or 457 plans before the end of the year. The same rings true for college savings plans, such as 529 plans. You may even want to consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Beyond these important points, also make sure to start gathering the necessary documentation you may need for any deductions that you are claiming. These may include copies of statements or receipts regarding your property taxes, medical expenses, dental expenses, child care expenses, education expenses, moving expenses, and heating/cooling expenses. For business owners, the new 199A deduction for business income will have additional paperwork requirements. It’s best to work with your bookkeeper and accountant at gathering those records now, rather than waiting until the hectic tax season.

Seek Professional Advice

With changes to the U.S. tax code now in effect, it is especially important to make the right decisions when it comes to your year-end financial moves. A skilled tax attorney or financial advisor can help explain your options under the law and provide you with guidance so that you can make the best decisions for you, your family, and your future. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Why receiving an inheritance changes your estate plan

Receiving an inheritance is a huge blessing but, if not handled properly, can also become a curse. Often times, the inheritor does not know what to do with the new asset and runs into financial trouble, squandering most, if not all of it. This could happen due to the inheritor having outstanding creditor issues or tax troubles or being inexperienced with managing the new assets. No matter what the financial obstacles maybe, estate planning can help address or even eliminate these issues. For these reasons, it is vital to update your estate plan – or create one if you have not already – if you have received or are expecting to receive an inheritance.

How Inheritances Affect Estate Plans

An inheritance will likely change your assets in a major way, which may result in a change in your tax and financial planning needs. An inheritance may also increase your exposure to lawsuits since people are more likely to seek out the “deep pockets” in a lawsuit. If your inheritance is the first time you have invested or have had substantial assets, an estate plan can set up safeguards to both manage and protect your wealth. If you already have an estate plan in place, it is critical to update it so that the plan incorporates your recent inheritance. The presence of more assets may require a revision in order to make sure that your intentions are properly carried out. This is particularly true if you have a blended family, have changed from a non-taxable to a taxable estate because the value of your assets is now over $11 million, or if your original estate plans involved utilizing a charitable strategy. Putting your inheritance to work – whether it be for short-term or long-term financial goals – will help you avoid wasting your inheritance.

Preserving Your Family’s Wealth

Another important reason to re-evaluate your estate planning when you receive an inheritance is to preserve your family’s wealth. Unfortunately, statistics on wealth preservation across generations are grim. Studies estimate that 70 percent of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90 percent lose it by the third. One common reason for these surprising statistics is the lack of communication among generations. Needless to say, proactive steps are necessary to preserve wealth for the long-term. Families fail to discuss this important topic because money can be a taboo topic to discuss openly, the older generations fear that the younger generations will become lazy and entitled if they are made aware of their inheritance too soon, or they fear their private financial information will be leaked to those who should not have the information. But, if your family is open, honest, and everyone plans properly, your family does not have to see its collective fortune evaporate within a couple generations. Estate planning can provide the foundation to ensure assets continue to be managed properly and are preserved instead of dissipated. Proper planning can also make wealth a part of the family legacy instead of a burden or societal ill.

Seek Professional Advice

An inheritance can be used up faster than you would think, but proper planning can reduce this risk. If you have received an inheritance – or expect to receive one in the near future – it is vital that you seek out financial and legal advice. Give us a call to schedule an appointment so we can discuss your options to help preserve your family legacy.

What Estate Planning Awareness Means for You

The third week of October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week (Oct. 15-21, 2018). Estate planning is important for everyone regardless of wealth or family status because if you become incapacity or pass away without an estate plan, you are leaving the distribution of your assets subject to state law – and the results may not be what you want or expect.

Estate Planning Explained

Estate planning includes the growth, protection, and transfer of a person’s wealth through the creation and maintenance of an estate plan. The concept of estate planning is important and twofold: (1) to have a strategy that will maintain your financial security during your lifetime, and (2) to ensure that your intended transfer of property and assets occurs upon your death. Both of these issues are analyzed through the lens of the unique situation of the family and the possible expense of different methods used in the estate plan.

Benefits of Estate Planning

There are several benefits to having an estate plan. At a minimum, an estate plan provides clear written guidance to your loved ones on what to do with your assets when you are deceased. But perhaps the most important reason is to be in control of how your family is provided for in the event of your death or incapacity. Estate planning can address several issues including:

  • Who will raise your minor children,
  • Who will inherit your assets and how they will be distributed,
  •  Who will care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves,
  • Who will care for your pets, and
  • Who will receive your life insurance and other insurance proceeds.
  • Finally, good estate planning can ease the time-consuming, administrative strain placed on your family during an already difficult time.

Estate Planning Statistics

According to studies, 6 in 10 adults have not put a will in place. And, while many have likely heard that it is wise to avoid probate – the legal process by which the assets of a deceased are disposed of under court supervision – many do not understand why probate should be avoided. Three main issues with probate include: (1) the tying up of the decedent’s assets for months or even years while the probate is open, (2) the cost, sometimes as much as 5 percent of the estate’s value is spent on attorney and court fees alone, and (3) the loss of privacy in the probate process when it comes to the decedent’s financial information.

There are many financial and legal tools that may be used in the estate planning process. Contact us today to discuss your situation and learn about your specific options.

Trusts - The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning

To the general public, a trust may seem like an advanced tool only for the wealthiest among us. But, the reality is that trusts are a foundational estate planning tool with a solid history for being highly effective in ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out. The process begins with the maker of a trust – commonly referred to as the trust maker, grantor, settlor, or trustor – transferring his or her ownership of certain assets to the trust. A trustee is then appointed to manage these assets for the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of the trust. In a “standard” revocable living trust, you are the trust maker, the trustee, and the beneficiary while you are alive. Then your designated successor trustee and beneficiaries take over upon your passing.

Types of Trusts

There are a broad variety of trusts and options available to you to fit your estate planning needs – no matter what they are.

Revocable Living Trusts. These trusts are the foundation of many estate plans. They contain your instructions for how your assets will be handled upon your death or incapacity, which go into effect while you are still living. Since these trusts are revocable, you can change or cancel provisions at any time during your life.

Incentive Trusts. These trusts typically contain provisions to encourage or discourage certain behavior and promote family values. In order for the beneficiary to receive funds from the trust, he or she must adhere to the particular requirements set forth by the grantor.

Beneficiary Controlled Trusts. In this scenario, the beneficiary – typically the grantor’s child or grandchild – is also the trustee. He or she has the discretion to distribute assets to him or herself for health, maintenance, education, or support. There is a co-trustee, who can be removed by the beneficiary/trustee, with the authority to access the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary beyond his or her health, maintenance, education, or support.

Asset Protection Trusts. These trusts offer perhaps the strongest financial protection against creditors, lawsuits, and judgments. In some types of asset protection trusts, the trust maker can also be a beneficiary, allowing him or her to still receive the benefits of the assets. Protective legal language and proper management of the trust are critical when you use these trusts.

Offshore Trusts. An offshore trust is similar in nature and effect to other trusts, except that it is generally created in a jurisdiction where the laws are more favorable to settlors looking for privacy and asset protection. Notably, as long as the jurisdiction recognizes the legal concept of a trust, a trust may be located in any country. That being said, these trusts are subject to close scrutiny and extensive reporting requirements imposed by the U.S. government. As a result, they are really only appropriate for sophisticated, high net worth individuals, couples, and families.

Life Insurance Trusts. This is an irrevocable trust that is set up specifically to own a life insurance policy. Ownership in an existing life insurance policy may be transferred to the trust or the trust can purchase the policy directly. The settlor cannot serve as the trustee and he or she relinquishes any right to dissolve the trust or make any changes to it. These can be a great fit for anyone with a large life insurance policy and whose estate is subject to estate taxes.

Testamentary Trusts. This trust does not become effective until the grantor passes away. Testamentary trusts are generally made within a will. The will becomes effective immediately, but the trust is not created until the maker of the will dies. Unlike living trusts, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate – the legal process by which a court oversees the distribution of assets from a deceased’s estate.

Seek Professional Advice

Estate planning may feel complicated, but it can be an enlightening and easy process when you have the right guide. Contact us today for an estate plan that best suits your needs as well as protects your family.

Estate Planning Considerations for Benefits Open Enrollment

The fall, generally late-October or early-November, is the time when employers send out summaries of employee benefits offered by the company and give employees the option to enroll in these benefits. These can generally include retirement plan options, health care, dental, vision, short and/or long-term disability, and life insurance coverage. Your employer may pay 100 percent of the premiums, split the costs with you, or you may have to pay all of the premiums yourself. Below are several considerations you should keep in mind once open enrollment begins.

Benefits Explained

When considering any retirement plan offered through your employer such as a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan, you will need to consider: what percentage of income you choose to contribute and whether the contribution must be made pre-tax, after-tax, or to a Roth plan (if available). How much you can contribute, and whether pre- or post-tax, depends on your specific financial circumstances. Remember to also consider any “matching” contributions your employer may make since these contributions can help improve your overall retirement savings.

Healthcare benefits may include the ability to enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA), in addition to enrolling in the usual healthcare, vision, and/or dental coverage. HSAs allow plan participants to set funds aside, tax-free, for health care costs.

Employer-provided life and disability insurance coverage will provide your beneficiary with a stated amount of money if you die while employed by your employer or become disabled. The coverage generally expires when you no longer work for that employer.

Perhaps the most important thing to do during your employer’s open enrollment period is to review the employer-provided benefit package to determine what should remain and what should be changed. If you do not understand the options being provided to you, contact human resources right away for more information.

Beneficiary Designations

While you are reviewing your benefit package, you should consider your beneficiary elections or those who will inherit these assets upon your death or incapacity. A primary beneficiary is the first to inherit. Should he or she pass before you, or with you, assets would then go to any secondary beneficiary you have designated. These are often referred to as contingent beneficiaries.

Even if you have previously enrolled, you must review your beneficiary designations on your employer-provided benefits to ensure they are still how you want them. Benefits that may require a beneficiary designation are life insurance policies, retirement accounts, health savings accounts (HSA), as well as disability insurance.

If there are any new providers for your employer-sponsored benefits, this means that the insurance company has changed. Keep in mind that your previously chosen beneficiaries, and possibly coverage, may not have carried over. It is always better to review these documents, even if you are not planning any changes.

Estate Planning Concerns

If you are contemplating any changes to your beneficiaries, give us a call so we can ensure your beneficiary designations work as expected with your current estate plan or so we can properly prepare a plan that carries out your ultimate goals for you and your family. Once you have updated your beneficiaries, make sure to obtain written confirmation of this from your employer’s human resources department and share this information with us. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.

Big "Life Changes" Often Mean "Big Estate Plan Changes"

Many people who put together an estate plan do so when they start a family – assuming they put an estate plan together at all during their lifetime. While putting an estate plan together is a good thing to do, many people make few updates once the plan has been created, despite other key life events happening over the years. This is a major mistake that can place your hard-earned money and assets into a costly probate or into the wrong hands. To make sure you do not run into these issues and your wishes are followed in the event of your death or incapacity, below are nine life decisions or events that should get you thinking about updating — or creating — your estate plan right away.

 

Important Life Decisions

There are several important life decisions that you should factor into your estate plan. They include:

 

  • Getting married: Estate planning after tying the knot does not have to be complicated. Simply updating your beneficiary information, purchasing a life insurance policy, and updating emergency contact information are all things that should happen right away. You should also consider preparing a will and a living will. As your marriage progresses, it may make sense to consider a revocable trust as well. Having discussions with your spouse about how you want your estate to be managed depending on different scenarios is also important.
  • Getting divorced: While couples do not plan for divorce, many spouses go through this process. For many, the emotional toll and legal complexities of divorce can be overwhelming. Oftentimes estate planning is overshadowed by the divorce, resulting in unintended consequences. Making sure you make changes to your estate plan as soon as your divorce proceedings have been finalized will make sure your ex will not end up with the house, life insurance proceeds or other assets of yours.
  • Buying life insurance: These policies are present in virtually all estate plans and serve as a useful source of liquidity, education-expense coverage, and financial support for your family or loved ones. Make sure to list all beneficiaries under the policy and make sure to update them as time passes.
  • Buying a new home: When you purchase or refinance a home or other real estate, you should always make sure the asset is titled appropriately. If you use a trust, sometimes a lender will take a property out of a trust during a refinance. The key is to make sure your title furthers your goals.
  • Having a child: While adding another member to your family is an exciting time in your life, it is not an excuse to forget to update your estate plan. A new child necessitates major revisions to your estate plan. This not only affects who will inherit your estate upon your death but will also require you deciding who will be the guardian of your children if you should die before they become adults. As your child grows and matures — and more children are added — your estate plan will likely continue to change.
  • Starting a business: If you start a business or ownership interest changes in a current business, you need to understand what impact these changes have on your estate plan. Even more, there may be tax implications that could affect your heirs without proper planning ahead of time.
  • Death of a loved one: The passing away of someone listed in your will is often overlooked in estate planning. These individuals may be named guardians to your children, have an inheritance allocated to them, be designated as emergency contacts, or may be named as executors of your estate. Leaving the role vacant can have terrible unintended consequences and necessitates transitioning new people to fill the void left behind by your loved one’s death right away.
  • Moving to another state or country: When you change your residency from one state to another, you must review your estate plan to make sure it conforms with local laws. The same is true if you move to another country. Likewise, if you have property in more than one state or country, special attention must be paid to how those assets will be distributed according to your estate plan and applicable law.
  • Change in work benefits: Whether this happened through a promotion, demotion, or your employer just changed the benefits they offer, this could impact the type amount of assets you have available. Look at your estate plan to see if your goals are still achievable or if you can do more with what you have.

 

Estate Planning Advice

Planning based on your life stages is important because your circumstances over the years will surely change. If you have any questions about estate planning — or have had to make a recent big decision in your life — contact us to learn more about your options.