Estate Planning: Your 2018 Review

By on June 21, 2018
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It’s a new year and the perfect time to review your estate plan. Whether or not you are experiencing any life-changing events in 2018, or whether your estate is large or small, it’s a good idea because the economy and tax laws often change on a yearly basis. Also, estate-planning documents are legal documents that determine what happens to your assets; it’s imperative you do not neglect your estate plan in case of unforeseeable circumstances. Review our checklist to ensure you have your bases covered and are prepared for the year ahead.

Estate Plan Review Checklist

Have you experienced familial changes?

If you experience any changes in your family life, be sure to talk to your estate planning professional about incorporating those changes. Life-changing events include:

  • Getting married, divorced, or experiencing the death of a spouse. Be sure to update your living trust and/or will, and address any property issues. If you are getting married, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement if one or both of you come to the marriage with significant assets. If you are getting divorced, you may want to change your beneficiary destinations on investments, insurance policies, etc. If you experience the death of a spouse, additionally you may need to change your trustees and powers of attorney.
  • Expanding your family. If you have a baby, adopt a child, or have a new stepchild, review your estate planning documents to ensure guardians are appointed and inheritance instructions are updated for the new addition(s). If you have a living trust, you can determine at what age your child inherits assets. If you have a will, the child will inherit assets at age 18.
  • Buying or refinancing a home. If you purchased a new home, you can put it in a trust to avoid probate and ensure it is taken care of in case of incapacitation. Doing so requires the title be in the name of the trust. An estate-planning attorney can help you prepare transfers of properties to trusts properly. If you refinanced your current home and your home was already in a trust, it may have been taken out by the mortgage company. Make sure you check and transfer it back if necessary.
  • Relocating to a new state. Different states have different laws on what documents you need to include in your estate plan and how they should be signed. Check into this before relocating so you don’t find out your plan is invalid in your new state. Estate tax also varies by state. If you move from a state that imposes an estate tax to one that doesn’t, or vice versa, update your plan to take into consideration change in the taxable status of your estate.

Life-changing events can be emotional and administrative work may be the last thing on your mind. However, it’s extremely important your estate-planning documents are current. Developing a yearly review habit will only benefit you in the long run.

Have you experienced financial changes?

Changes in your financial situation should also be brought to your estate-planning attorney for review. Here are some possible financial situations that warrant updates to your plan.

  • Opening new accounts. Have you opened any new bank accounts or investment accounts? Be sure to include them in your plan. If you have a trust, make sure you update it with new account information so you can avoid probate and ensure your beneficiaries receive what you intend for them. If you do not have a trust, read our article Estate Planning Basics: Trusts to learn why you should.
  • Gifting or receiving money. Update your financial documents if you have received a sizable inheritance, bequest, made or received sizable gifts, borrowed or lent substantial amounts of money, purchased, leased, or sold material assets or investments.
  • Changes in employment. If you or your spouse started a new job, left a current job, or quit a job, you may need to update beneficiary designations for retirement plans and life insurance policies. You should also notify your estate-planning attorney of any changes in insurance coverage (life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, medical insurance, liability insurance).
  • Buying, selling, or making other business changes. If you have started a business or made significant changes to your existing business, i.e., sold a business, reorganized or liquidated, instituted a pension plan, executed a buy-sell agreement, deferred compensation, etc., you will need to update the appropriate documents.

Financial changes occur all the time and not all may seen significant, like opening a bank account. If you are unsure, consult with your attorney so you don’t end up with money out of your control.

Were you diagnosed with health issues?

If you, your spouse, or another family member was diagnosed with serious health issues, update your estate plan or create one if you don’t have one already. Medical care is expensive and you are doing your family or caregiver a favor if you include provisions to cover these expenses.

Are you planning to retire?

If you plan to retire within the next 5 years, it’s essential to update your plan accordingly. Until this point, you may have been more concerned with how your estate generates wealth for you. However, when you retire you will want to withdraw those assets. Talk to your attorney about the best way to position your estate for retirement.

Has your estate valuation changed?

Review your estate if the total value has increased or decreased by 20% within the last two years or since your last review. Provide your attorney with an updated summary of your assets and liabilities so they can better assist you.

Are you planning to donate to charity?

If you would like to leave all or a portion of your estate to charity, you can do so using charitable trusts or donor-advised funds. Such investment vehicles can provide short- and long-term tax benefits. Consult with your estate-planning professional for more information before making any contributions.

There are numerous other scenarios that warrant reviewing your estate plan on a yearly basis. The important thing is that you recognize when you have experienced an event that ties to your plan. If you are unsure, consult with an expert. One of the biggest mistakes people make is forgoing the advice of an estate-planning professional or attorney. While it’s OK to save money and draft your own documents, invest in a review of your plan to ensure you are meeting state requirements to ensure validity. Performing an annual review of your estate plan will give you piece of mind and alert you to other issues that may need addressed.

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About Harold Goldman

I am the founder of FinancialSafetyNet.org, and a Retirement Planning and Long-Term Care specialist. I am also the President of Emes Insurance Services, Inc., a Murrieta based insurance agency designed to help people with Retirement Planning and funding for College. I believe in educating my clients to become financially competent in an effort to develop plans for guaranteed income, protection against loss and tax-advantaged growth. To contact me Call (844)-376-2265

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