If you have not looked at your will in a while, or if you have never quite gotten around to writing one in the first place, then now is a good time. With the Holidays just around the corner, you have a chance to evaluate your financial position, personal values, and the people you may leave behind. And what better topic to discuss at your Christmas Party!?!
You can probably think of a dozen better topics . . . estate planning is easily procrastinated, and that is the main reason most clients come to me without wills or with documents that are woefully outdated. So let’s work together to ensure your documents are in place and up-to-date.
When to Review?
Moving past establishing an initial plan, when should you re-evaluate your will and other such documents? General advice is every three to five years. Typically speaking, this will ensure you consider developments in a timely manner and that your plan is never too far out of date. (It’ll also keep you abreast of relevant laws that may change from time to time.)
My personal suggestion to clients is to review your plans at any life changing event. Weddings, funerals, divorces, births, moves, etc. At each one of these events you and your family change. Someone is welcomed in, someone will be missed (or not), state laws are changed, etc. These are easy milestones to recognize and indicate a higher likelihood that something may need adjusting.
What to Consider?
What does it mean to review your will or estate plan? It is actually a rather simple process for most; Consider the following questions: What are your goals today if you had to write a plan from scratch? How do those goals compare with your current plan? If there are differences, do you need to make changes to your current plan, or can you tolerate the differences?
With the above basic questions answered, a professional can help you consider if any laws have changed that affect your plans. Fortunately, the inheritance tax was largely reduced about 2010, and currently estates under $11.4 million are exempt. This is always subject to change, and you should stay aware of developments in both Washington and Columbia.
Implementing a Plan
Some clients work hard to develop and set up a complicated plan. Then they forget to implement it! Don’t let that happen to you.
Review your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, titles, deeds, insurance policies, and other such assets to ensure that the titling and beneficiaries comport with your plan. A will or trust may be circumvented if your accounts pay money on death directly to your beneficiaries. A plan to avoid probate may be frustrated by an old vehicle titled solely in your name.
No matter your intentions and plans, you should sit down and examine how assets are held. Ensure that you have titled your property in a way that works within your plan to accomplish your goals.
When to get Help?
You can add beneficiaries to your bank accounts, change the title on your car, and adjust your life insurance policies yourself. Changing the deed for a house or writing a will is another matter. But where a professional really helps is when you need someone with experience with whom to discuss a difficult question or to facilitate a conversation with your spouse.
Whether you need to establish a will and nominate someone to raise your minor children, or you want to set up a trust for the life of your spendthrift adult child, I will happily work with you to understand and explain your options. When a decision is made, I can help you implement that plan to ensure your wishes are carried out.
If you have been putting off writing or reviewing your will, reach out to me and let’s knock this off your list before it becomes a New Year’s Resolution!