Don’t Let Your Old Estate Plan Atrophy On The Shelf
January 30, 2012
Do you already have an estate plan? Or perhaps you don’t have an estate plan per se, but over the years you’ve collected all of what you feel are the necessary documents to provide security and protection for your family and your assets after your death? Well, you may want to take a moment to review that existing estate plan of yours. According to this recent article there are five common mistakes made in estate plans, and just one could end up derailing your goals for yourself or for your family.
Some of the common mistakes listed in the article are things that are very easy to fix once you’re aware of them—listing the wrong beneficiary on an old retirement account or life insurance policy, for example. All too often people get a new job or new policy and list the right beneficiary at the time, then that policy goes in a drawer or filing cabinet for years. During those passing years you may get married or divorced, or you may have children. Any of these big life events require changing those beneficiaries. Luckily, making that change is generally a quick and easy fix.
If you aren’t worried about your retirement or life insurance beneficiaries, consider what what will happen to your children in the event of an emergency. Many clients agonize over who to name as guardians of their minor children, but forget to review those decisions every few years. The energetic young couple you chose 7 years ago might now have children of their own, or have moved to another state, and may not be as ideal a choice as they once were. If you listed your parents 10 years ago you might decide in the intervening years that an aging couple is not quite as able as you thought to take on so much added responsibility.
If your trust was prepared years ago when the estate tax laws were different, you may need to update your trust. Many trusts prepared in the 1990′s under old tax law could actually undermine your wishes if not brought into compliance with current tax laws. Specifically, the mandatory “trust-split” on the first death common to older trusts may no longer be necessary. Even worse, they could now result in the surviving spouse having only limited access to a couple’s assets after the first spouse’s death. Also, if one spouse is now receiving Medi-Cal benefits to help with nursing home expenses, an update of your estate plan is usually a “must”.
The fact of the matter is that our lives are not static or stagnant, they are constantly growing and changing, and estate planning documents will need to grow and change with them. If it has been more than 2 years since you last reviewed your plan, it’s time to get out the magnifying glass and give your documents another good look. You might just save yourself and your loved ones some unwanted surprises.
3 Steps to Help Protect Your Family and Your Future in 2012
January 16, 2012
We all want to ensure our loved ones are protected and provided for, but sometimes the process of doing so can appear overwhelming, and prevent you from even taking the first steps. When it comes to protecting your family and your future with an estate plan, the process can actually be as easy as 1… 2… 3…
1. Assessment. The first step to creating a plan that can protect your family, your future, and your family’s future begins with simply taking stock of what you have and where you are. Begin by making a list of all your assets, including your house, stocks, investments, bank accounts and personal property. Next consider your responsibilities and goals: what are your plans for the future or for retirement? Who do you wish to provide for in your will? Do you have a spouse or children who might benefit from a trust?
2. Implementation. Now it’s time to put all that information you gathered in step one into play. The particulars of your estate will have a great impact on how you build your estate plan: A small estate and straightforward inheritance plan may require only a well-drafted will, while a larger estate may benefit from the asset protections found with a trust. Your goals for the future and your wishes for your family will have an equally large impact on your choice of estate planning strategies as well, including whether to include an education trust for young students, a pet trust for your furry family members, or a retirement trust to protect your own investments. An estate planning attorney can help you understand your options and implement the strategy you feel works best for your family.
3. Follow-Through. Once your estate plan is drafted, signed, and tucked safely away you’ll want to ensure that it continues working as you intend it to. The best way to do this is to review your plan with your estate planning attorney every 2 or 3 years. Your family and financial situation is likely to change over the years—estate taxes and laws change as well—and all the hard work you put into creating your plan can be undone if you don’t keep up with the changes.
Consider A Trust For You and Your Family?
January 10, 2012
The answer to the title question is that just about every family can benefit from a trust. The rich and famous tend to utilize trusts because of the privacy they provide, the long-term asset protection, the tax benefits, and their flexibility; but each and every family, regardless of fame or income, can reap the exact same benefits making a trust a part of their estate plan.
According to this article on the CNN Money website, you can benefit from a trust “if you have a net worth of at least $100,000 and meet one of the following conditions…
- “A sizable amount of your assets is in real estate, a business or an art collection;
- You want to leave your estate to your heirs in a way that is not directly and immediately payable to them upon your death. For example, you may want to stipulate that they receive their inheritance in three parts, or upon certain conditions being met, such as graduating from college;
- You want to support your surviving spouse, but also want to ensure that the principal or remainder of your estate goes to your chosen heirs (e.g., your children from a first marriage) after your spouse dies;
- You and your spouse want to maximize your estate-tax exemptions;
- You have a disabled relative whom you would like to provide for without disqualifying him or her from Medicaid or other government assistance.”
The article goes on to explain that depending on your assets, your family, and your goals you may have a number of different trust options to choose from. The article gives very helpful explanation of the various types of trusts you may have available to you, and will give an idea of just how powerful and flexible a trust can be.
What the article doesn’t mention is that some of these trusts can be used in conjunction with each other, to provide layers of protection and control of your assets. The world of trusts is complex, but full of potential. Please contact our office (or your own local estate planner) to learn more about trusts, and determine how a trust might be good for your family.