By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Time passes quickly. Life brings change. While these may seem like platitudes, they reflect the truth of most people’s lives. This article will encourage you to recognize a new life stage as an opportunity to review and fine tune your estate plan.
As we retire and get ready for the next stage of our lives, many of us have a plan in place outlining what we wish to leave to our sons, daughters, grandchildren, or other loved ones, or perhaps to charity. It’s imperative to review your estate plan periodically, especially if you or your spouse are getting on in years, or if your health is failing, to ensure that it continues to meet your goals.
Time usually passes more quickly than we expect. Make it a priority to re-evaluate your goals and your Will or Living Trust, especially when there has been a change in circumstances, such as:
- Your spouse passes away, and you find that you have additional assets to leave to your heirs, loved ones, alma mater, or favorite charity.
- There are changes in your children’s lives such as a birth, divorce, new stepchildren, or a child who has special needs.
- You wish to create a gifting program so that you can see the fruits of your generosity while you are still alive.
- You want to reduce your income taxes and estate taxes so as to pass on more to your heirs.
What many people don’t realize is that there can be significant financial benefits to keeping their estate plan current. Estate taxes and income taxes can be minimized, assets can be sheltered from creditors, and heirs can receive greater benefit from a properly-created estate plan.
As you consider your plans, talk informally to your heirs and loved ones to see if there are any special wishes they have and to ascertain what their mid-term and long-term plans are for themselves and their families. Review all of your assets, titles and deeds, banking and other financial documents, retirement accounts, insurance papers, etc., to make sure that you have all of your documents in a safe, accessible place, and that the appropriate assets are funded into your Trust. Ensure that beneficiary designations are up-to-date and correct in all pertinent documents.
Meet with a loved one or someone you trust to discuss your estate plan. Make sure they know what documents you have, where they are kept, and how to gain access to them should you pass away.
Imagine the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing that you’ve updated your legal documents, looked over your other affairs, and taken the time to think about the future of your loved ones.
Remember too that you’ll need the counsel of an attorney who focuses his or her practice on estate planning, to make sure that all of your documents are legally binding and that you take advantage of the laws and procedures for your state. This way you’ll avoid pitfalls, protect your assets, and provide as you wish for your heirs.