If you’ve completed an estate plan – good for you! You’ve recognized the importance of taking the necessary steps to insure that your assets are transferred correctly to the next generation and/or to a charitable organization. Now, how long ago did you complete this plan? When did you last review it? Whatever the number that pops into your head – the accurate figure is probably twice that (for most of us anyway).
Planning experts (financial, tax, and legal) vary on how long to wait, but most figure every 2-5 years depending on whether you have a Will or a Trust. Trusts should be reviewed more often. If for no other reason than to update your “inventory” (what’s owned by the Trust).
Here are a few reasons why you may want to review your estate documents now:
- Family changes. Have the dynamics of your family significantly changed such that the present “Personal Representative” or “Successor Trustee” isn’t a good fit? Has there been a marriage, divorce, birth or death which will change anything in your documents? Has the maturing of your children, and the aging of those people currently named to act for you, changed your plans?
- Designated beneficiary changes. Your bank accounts, retirement accounts, retirement plan, life insurance policies, and annuities probably all have designated beneficiaries (joint ownership, pay on death, or transfer on death). At your death, these assets will pass directly to the beneficiaries listed in the account or agreement – not according to your Will or Trust. Do you know or recall what, if any, designated property you have? It’s easy to find out – just contact the appropriate account manager and ask for a simple printout. Most are surprised by at least one designation, and then quickly make changes.
- Legacy/gifting changes. Has the religious, educational, or charitable organization you intend to gift to after your death, undergone undesirable changes? Would you like to add others? Should you consider changing the size of the gifts, or perhaps begin donating regularly now?
- Legal changes. State trust and probate laws change a little (sometimes a lot) each year. Federal tax laws also continue to change. A year and a half ago the federal estate tax exemption changed, along with new rules about preserving the unused exemption for the surviving spouse. While we try and keep our client family advised of the major changes, there may be a slight change in the law that affects you, or your estate, a great deal.
Just because you completed the estate planning process years ago doesn’t mean it’s still a good plan today. In this day and age, it is not advisable to just toss your Will or Trust in a cabinet and let your children sort it out when the time comes. Your planning goals may not be met, your estate could suffer unnecessary financial losses, and worst of all, you risk potential heartache or resentment in a beneficiary you deeply love.
If you’d like to schedule some time to review your estate (30 minutes to an hour should do it), simply call the office and we will calendar an appointment for you.