Is Your Estate Plan Defensible – A Checklist
Changes in the Law. How old is your estate plan? If the answer is more than 2-3 years, it is almost certainly out of date based on significant changes in tax law. Example: Many estate plans create a Family Trust with an amount equal to the lifetime exclusion from estate taxes. The exclusion is now $11 Million per person. If you have an estate worth less than 11 Million, this could mean that all your estate will go to your children and grandchildren and not to your spouse. Be sure to have an estate planning professional review your plan in light of current tax law.
Changes in the Facts. There are many ways in which the provisions in your existing estate plan may be out of touch with present reality: the value of your estate, marriage, divorce, current ages and circumstances of your children, birth of grandchildren, to name just a few. Review carefully the provisions in your current plan that deal with who gets what assets and when. Example: Many estate plans provide that children will receive 1/3 of the assets at ages 25, 30, 35. Are you comfortable that your children are properly prepared to receive the assets at those ages? Other key areas to look at are who you have named as Trustees and Guardians – are they still the right people?
Changes in Your Wishes. Many basic estate plans provide that assets are first used to support a surviving spouse and only after that to support children and grandchildren. Often there is no consideration of charity. How do you feel now about the distribution of your assets? Because this is entirely within your control, think carefully about this and make sure your documents reflect your current wishes.
Lifetime Giving. When the estate plan is first written, the size of the estate is often modest and the focus is primarily on maintaining control of the assets to support the immediate family. As the family wealth grows, there can be tax benefits to giving assets away during your lifetime. You also may now be able to consider leaving assets to charity. An expert in estate planning can help you understand the options.
The above list is just a primer of several key considerations in reviewing your estate plan. Be sure to do this regularly to make sure that you aren’t part of the 90% of Americans that are unhappy with their estate plan.
Note: IWM Advisor’s Wealth Transfer Division regularly reviews estate plans for its clients Please contact us if we can be of help: firstname.lastname@example.org or 917.697.4156.