If you have estate planning documents, an important item to add to your calendar is getting a regular estate plan checkup.
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Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your to-do list.
Why? Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated. Your property and your loved ones may end up in time-consuming and expensive probate proceedings after you die.
Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to have your estate planning done, then the state where you live at the time of your death will essentially write one for you. It most likely won’t divvy up your property the way you would have and certainly will not protect your heirs the way you would.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only necessary for wealthy people. But this simply isn’t true – anyone with a bank or retirement account, a home, or a family needs to make a plan for what happens if they become incapacitated or when they die. Of course, the complexity of the plan will vary depending on your circumstances. Nonetheless, all estate plans should be put together with the help of an attorney who is experienced with the legal formalities required to create a valid will, trust, health care directive, and power of attorney in your stateevyour
How Old Is Your Estate Plan?
Do you currently have an estate plan? If yes, then please pull your documents out of the drawer and dust them off. Now look at the date you signed them.
Were your documents signed in the 80s or 90s, or, worse yet, in the 1970s? If so, please run, don’t walk, to an estate planning attorney, because your documents are terribly out of date and need to be updated as soon as possible.
Did you sign your documents between 2000 and 2009? Aside from the federal estate tax exemption jumping from $675,000 to $3,500,000 in that period, state estate taxes disappeared in many states. Because of significant changes in federal and state estate taxes, documents from this time period may be out of date. This means they may need tweaking to do what you want from them.
Did you sign your documents between 2010 and 2017? Federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes went through major changes during these years. Also, “portability” of the federal estate tax exemption between married couples was introduced. While your estate planning documents may only be a few years old, they very likely do not take advantage of the opportunities created with recent federal tax law changes. Plus, it’s not just tax laws that are changing. Modifications to state laws governing wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney may warrant revisions as well.
Regardless of the year you signed your estate planning documents, think about all your life changes since you signed them. Did you marry or divorce? Have a child or grandchild or two? Move to a new state? Did you sell your business, retire, have a significant change in assets, or win the lottery? Any major changes in your family or financial situation will certainly have an affect on your estate plan.
Estate Planning Is Not a One Shot Deal
Estate planning is not a static event that you can grudgingly do once and then forget about it. On the contrary, estate planning is a continuing process, because life is a moving target full of constant change. Your estate plan needs to change as your life changes.
We’re here to help navigate changes in your estate plan and ensure your wishes are being carried out as envisioned. Now and in the future, we can help mold your estate plan as you move through stages of life.
Contact John Lewman if you have estate planning questions.