If it has been a while since you’ve reviewed your estate plan, use this list to help you determine if your plan needs any updates. If you do not yet have your estate plan in place, review this list to help you think through some key decisions before meeting with your lawyer.
Dispositive Provisions. Over time, objectives for how and when your beneficiaries receive property may change. Perhaps even the beneficiaries themselves may change. Has your family grown? Has your net worth changed? Do you have a new charity you’d like to benefit? Take a look at the dispositive provisions of your Will or Trust and ask yourself whether the provisions meet your current objectives. If you do not yet have a Will or Trust, consider who you’d like to benefit from the legacy you’ll leave.
Fiduciary Selections. Consider whether the person you named as your Personal Representative, Trustee, or Agent still has the appropriate skill-set and the availability to serve. Have you talked to the person you’ve named as your Agent for medical decisions about your wishes? Are the guardians you named for your minor children still up for the job?
Asset Titling. How you own property may override the provisions of your estate plan. You should review the titling of real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, and other assets to assure proper coordination with your documents.
Beneficiary Designations. Do you know the current beneficiary designations for your life insurance policies, retirement plan accounts, and annuities? Make sure you consider any available roll-over options – and the associated income tax deferral options – for qualified plan assets when naming beneficiaries.
Use of Gift Exemptions. Depending on your tax situation and current objectives, it may make sense to use annual gifting exemptions and some or all of your lifetime gift exemption to transfer property now. Gifting may allow you to minimize your future estate tax liability. If you are in a position to gift away property, doing so should be done with your overall estate plan objectives and tax planning in mind.
Your estate planning attorney can help you with each of these items, and more. If it has been a while since you’ve reviewed your estate plan, take some time to reflect on what you have in place and any follow-up actions you should take now. Or if you do not have an estate plan yet, add planning to your goals for 2020.