23 Dec Estate Planning Year-End Checklist


The Holidays are here! In our family, the Holidays are the busiest time of year. They are filled with family gatherings, holiday parties, shopping, gift giving, more shopping, and estate planning. Yes, estate planning. While estate planning may initially be the farthest thing from your mind during the Holidays, it is a great time of year to get things in order.

During this busy season, I tackle everything with a checklist. Here is my holiday estate planning checklist:

· Year in Review. Do you have an estate plan? If so, have you reviewed it lately? Every estate plan (whether it includes only a will or a will and trust) needs to be reviewed every 3 years. In addition to the 3 year review, your plan must be reviewed immediately if any of the following events have occurred:

A change in residency to a new State.
The birth of a child.
A change in your marital status.
A change in your assets.
A change in your named beneficiaries.
A change in your named Executors/Trustees.
A change in your named Guardians.
A death of a beneficiary.
Changes in state and federal estate tax laws (which seems to be happening annually these days)

· Gifts to All. Have you made substantial gifts to your loved ones this year? Not everyone may know that gifting is a taxable event. Currently, each individual can gift a single beneficiary $13,000 in assets each year without incurring a gift tax. December is a great time to get caught up on those annual gifts.

· The Gift of Guardians. With all of the travel that is part of the Holiday Season, give your minor children the gift of security. Who will take care of your children if something happened to you? Name a guardian in your Will to take care of the personal and financial needs of your children. It’s the best gift you could give to your minor children.

· The Gift of Responsibility. Many feel that estate planning and Trusts are only for the wealthy. This could not be further from the truth. Ask yourself one question: Do you want your minor children to receive their inheritance (whether it is your house, retirement account, or life insurance, etc.) when they turn 18 years old? Through a Trust you can decide when and how your children gain access to your assets.

· Not Everything Can Be Bought Online. Buying a toy online is one thing, but buying your estate plan online is another. It is risky to tackle your estate plan with a do-it-yourself estate planning website. Your desires may not come through as you intended and you will not know of the deficiencies until it is too late.

· Family Time. Have your discussed your estate plan with your family? The Holidays are a great time to discuss your desires with your family all together. Do your executors/trustees know where to find your original Will and Trust? Do they even know you have named them to take care of your affairs after you are gone? By discussing these topics with your loved ones, eases the anxiety after you are gone.

Bottom line: Add estate planning to your Holiday list! Secure your future and the future of your loved ones.

Happy Holidays!