ARE YOU ORGANIZED FOR THE NEW YEAR?
The most common phrase I hear is, “I need to do estate planning. I just haven’t gotten around to it.” Whether you are creating your estate plan for the first time or your current plan needs a review, you now have a round “TUIT.” With the end of the year upon us, this is the right time to get organized for 2018. Having your plan in place brings peace of mind for you and it provides protection for your family when you become ill or die. Here are the key points to consider:
ESTABLISH A PLAN
Don’t have a Will or Trust? No problem. The State of California has decided everything for you. The court will act on your incapacity and the California Probate Code has decided who gets what when you pass away- at a high cost. If this is okay with you, take a beach day. If you prefer to make your own decisions about your future and your hard-earned assets, you will want to read on.
If you have a home, children, or bank account you should have an estate plan. That includes just about any person age 18 and older. If you want to decide who will handle your money if you become unable to pay your bills or provide for yourself, you must have a Durable Power of Attorney. Do you want to decide who receives your assets when you die? You will need a Will. If you want to avoid the court publicly supervising the disbursement of your cash and property, you must have a trust. Do you want to make your own decisions about life support? That will require an Advanced Health Care Directive. If this seems burdensome, these documents can be drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney in a few weeks. Once you have your wishes in place, you can enjoy life free from worry about illness and death. We will all face the end of our life. That fact does not have to incite fear or stress. Outline your wishes in an organized plan, protect your legacy, and avoid expensive probate fees.
REVIEW YOUR EXISTING PLAN
Estate planning is not a single event. Our lives are in constant change, therefore planning your estate is a continuing process. These events require a further look at your existing documents:
Changes in Assets– Have you bought or sold a home or investment property? Your real estate should be held in trust or another entity as further discussed with your estate planning attorney. If you have refinanced your home, you will want to confirm that your home is still titled in the name of your trust. If you have established a partnership, corporation, or LLC, you’ll want to pass your business interest on to your loved ones. Have you opened new bank accounts or life insurance policies? Have you named primary and secondary beneficiaries? Your estate attorney should review this with you.
Changes in Health– Have you or your spouse been diagnosed with an illness? Has your doctor mentioned memory loss? Do you have an illness that will cause extended hospitalization? A review or update of your powers of attorney is recommended.
Changes in Family– Have you retired? Did you move to a new state? Have you been married or divorced? Have you had a child or a grandchild? Have your children married or divorced? Do your kids or grandkids have special needs? Do they need protection from creditors? If so, you need a review.
Changes in Your Wishes– Do you want to disinherit a family member? Have you given a gift to one child and want to equalize distributions among your kids? Is there a specific item you want to leave to a certain person? Is the person you chose as successor trustee still the most qualified to handle your assets on your incapacity and death? Your estate attorney should review your plan to be sure your wishes are current.
Changes in the Law– Even if you answered no to all the above questions, there have been changes in the law. If your estate plan was signed pre-2000, you are overdue for updates. Does your current plan from 2000 to 2009 use AB Trusts? This may not be necessary with the 2017 federal estate tax exemption at $5.49 million. If you signed your documents in 2010-2012 there have been changes in federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Although the Trump administration has proposed to repeal the federal estate tax this remains uncertain at this writing.