With New Year’s Resolutions right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your resolutions. Make a resolution that you can get done right away – get your estate plan check up.
Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you don’t have an estate plan in place, then getting one should be at the top of your resolutions for 2017. Without an estate plan, your property will need to go through probate if you die, your children may be come wards of the court, or you may not have the person you want making healthcare decisions on your behalf. The State of California will be the one to decide all the important decisions on your behalf and hey may not be what you want.
Even worse, there will be additional legal and administrative fees to make those decisions. Many times, you will need to go to court to get a court order that names an executor, distributes your property, or names your children’s guardian. This is money that could be saved to help your loved ones carry on without you.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only for the wealthy. But this simply isn’t true. Anyone with a home, bank account, or a family needs to make a plan for the event of incapacity or death. Of course, the plan will vary based on your circumstances and needs. But all estate plans should be put together with the help of an estate planning attorney to make sure it reflects you, your wishes, and your circumstances, rather than a generic off-the-shelf scenario.
How Old Is Your Estate Plan?
Already have an estate plan? If so, then pull them out of the drawer and look at when those documents were created. Estate plans can age. As our circumstances and laws change, the effectiveness of your estate plan will change. Ideally, you should do a personal review every year and consult an estate planning attorney at least once every three years.
Federal estate taxes have gone through some major changes over the years. In every year since 2000, the federal exemption has changed. It has gone up and down. It will go up and down again in the future. This is just one example of how an estate planning strategy that may have made sense in the past might no longer be effective, or worse, cause unnecessary administrative fees and steps due to changes in the law.
You should also think about all the changes in your life since your estate plan was put into place. Did you get married or divorced? Did you have a child or grandchild? Did you move to another state or purchase property in another state? Did you sell a business or retire or even win the lottery? Any major changes in your family or finances need to be reflected in your estate plan.
Estate Planning Is Not A One Shot Deal
Another common misconception is that estate planning is something you do once then forget about it. On the contrary, estate planning is an ongoing process. This is because life is an ongoing process with constant change.
But don’t worry. You don’t need to think constantly about your estate plan. Just remember to set some time aside early in each new year to review your estate plan. You will only need to consult an attorney when a major life event has occurred and/or you want to understand how the changes in law impact your estate plan.
So go ahead and make the resolution that will protect your family for years to come.