New Year Is a Good Time to Consider Estate Planning

An estate planning resolution can be beneficial to everyone.

There are many possible New Year’s resolutions. However, a good one to consider may well be creating an estate plan or taking a fresh look at your current plan, according to the Grand Rapids Business Journal in “Incorporate estate planning into New Year’s resolutions,”

Resolving to address your estate plan and wealth administration in the coming year, will be a big help to you and your family. It’s easy to become overwhelmed—how many accounts do I have? Who is the named beneficiary? Who will administer my estate? To make it easier, use this checklist:

Revisit your estate plan. Have you looked at your estate plan in light of the 2018 tax law changes? Have you updated your beneficiary names on any accounts? Do you have contingent beneficiaries named?

Develop or update your will or trust and don’t forget to sign it. If you pass without a will or trust, the laws of your state will determine how your property is distributed, and the court will assign a guardian to your minor children. Better—have your will and trust created or update it. Not having a will and/or trust may increase your family’s tax liabilities, not to mention the legal disputes or challenges that result when there is no estate plan in place. Don’t forget to finalize the document with your signature. Yes, that really does happen, and it leads to unnecessary problems.

Revise your charitable giving. Instead of annual charitable giving that may no longer be deductible under the new tax laws, consider donating a larger sum to a donor-advised fund. This lets you receive an immediate charitable deduction and distribute funds to carefully vetted charities over time. This also lets your money grow tax-free before it is donated.

Check on your insurance coverage: Just as your life changes and your estate plan changes, your insurance needs change also. Make sure there are no gaps in your coverage and that there’s enough liquidity to pay taxes, satisfy any buy/sell agreements and provide enough money to support any survivors. If you have young children, have you included their college educations in your insurance portfolio?

Business succession plan review. Business owners who pour their heart and soul into their businesses hate to think about succession planning, and as a result many do nothing, leaving partners, family members, and clients in a bad position. What would happen to the business, if something unexpected occurred to you? Does your retirement plan center on the sale of your business? It usually takes a long time to create a business plan, and then it needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it still works for all involved.

Make an appointment with your estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances or take a fresh look at an old plan.

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