By: Robert B. George, Esquire
A common misconception many people have about estate planning is that once it’s initially finished, the job is done forever. The reality, however, is that an effective estate plan, much like one’s own life, is ever-changing, and should be reviewed periodically to see what needs to be updated to ensure that it continues to be an appropriate and effective plan by which to accomplish your intended goals.
There is no better time than the beginning of a new year to review your estate plan for possible change. If you are like most of us, however, it has likely been much longer than a year since you last reviewed your estate plan. Your business and career may have advanced significantly since you created your existing estate plan, your children have grown, and perhaps you now have grandchildren.
It may very well be time to re-draft your will, and re-evaluate your current estate in order to minimize taxes and fees, and ensure that everything goes smoothly for your family after your death. You may want to investigate new estate planning tools you’ve heard about since you established your current estate plan. You may have other questions such as: (i) How should I handle gifts to my grandchildren? (ii) What is the best way for me to provide for the education of my children and/or grandchildren? (iii) What do I need to know about trusts? (iv) Will joint ownership save taxes and probate costs? (v)What do I need to know about Medicare and Medicaid eligibility? (vi) Should I gift any of my property now?
Some common issues that may have arisen over the past year include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
Creation of a Will/Trust: A Will/Trust should be considered in order to best protect your assets and ensure that they are distributed properly pursuant to your wishes, if any of the following apply: (i) your income has significantly increased or you have acquired additional property over the past year; (ii) your marital status has changed; (iii) children have attained the age of majority and become emancipated over the past year.
Changing Your Beneficiaries: You may need to consider making changes to the beneficiaries under your current estate plan if a beneficiary has recently passed away, or maybe you have simply decided for one reason or another that you no longer wish to leave your money and/or property to certain individuals that you had previously designated as beneficiaries. Alternatively, a need may have arisen due to a change of circumstances over the past year, as a result of which you now decide to add new beneficiaries to your estate plan. For example, you may have had a new child and/or new grandchild in the past year, for which your estate plan may need to be revised/updated.
Adding to Your Estate Inventory: If you already have a Will or Trust and acquired additional property over the past year, you may want and/or need to consider updating your estate inventory so that everything is properly accounted for in your Will and/or Trust. Importantly in that regard, while a trust will allow you to avoid probate, items and/or property not included could be exposed to probate should you pass away without having updated your trust to properly include them.
An up-to-date estate plan ensures that you have the best source of protection during your lifetime, and that your loved ones will be protected and provided for after you’re gone. Whether you are exploring the idea of estate planning for the first time, or you’ve had a plan in place for years, now is the time to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney.
The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are experienced and available to help you. Contact Robert B. George, Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.