The start of the year is the time to review and revisit your estate plan. Just like going to the doctor and dentist for regular exams, it’s basic self-care. A recent article from Kiplinger, “Need an Estate Planning Checkup? Now is the Perfect Time,” advises having an annual checkup with your estate planning attorney before anything goes wrong.
Estate planning is about people. It ensures that loved ones will be protected when we are no longer here. It names someone we trust to administer our estate and follow our wishes. It also ensures that no one is left out or no one is wrongfully included.
After the holiday season of family gatherings is a good time to review the family situation. Children have grown into adulthood. Perhaps they’ve married and had children. What we planned to leave for them as minors may be different now. If your family suffered a loss last year, it may be time to reallocate funds or change beneficiaries.
This is the time to evaluate who you have named as the personal representative or entrusted with powers of attorney. They may have had their own health issues, suffered memory loss, or undergone their own life changes. These should also be reviewed when creating a new will or trust.
Property values have probably changed over the years. Real estate acquired decades ago may have appreciated far more than anticipated. If the intent is to leave equal shares of assets to beneficiaries, the new value of the property needs to be considered.
Depending on your assets, you may need to engage an expert to provide current valuations for real property, artwork and any other high-value assets. If you expect to see significant changes in the coming year, from selling property or making other adjustments, don’t wait until next year to order a new valuation. The more current your numbers, the better your estate plan.
Tax laws have changed a great deal in recent years. An experienced estate planning attorney will allow you to maximize the estate that you leave. Estate tax and gift taxes have been adjusted for inflation, so you may be able to leave larger gifts to children and grandchildren.
Your estate plan checkup should include a review of recent tax law changes, and a look at the legal environment for the coming year. Discuss how aggressive you want to be with your estate planning. The same goes for life changes which may have legal consequences. All of this needs to be discussed in a candid manner with your estate planning attorney.
You may leave your meeting with a to-do list, or you may find your estate plan still works. Either way, you’ll feel better after your estate plan checkup.
Reference: Kiplinger (Jan. 30, 2023) “Need an Estate Planning Checkup? Now is the Perfect Time”