This 8-point checklist can help determine whether your estate plan needs help.
An estate plan, properly executed, can protect you as well as your family in the event of sickness, accidents or untimely death. With just a little advanced planning, you can help your family avoid wasted dollars and unnecessary hardship.
Even if you have an estate plan in place, it should be reviewed on a regular basis. Congress, state legislatures and the courts are constantly changing the estate-planning rulebook. In fact, there have been several major estate and income tax law changes in recent years. Depending on your circumstances, an out-of-date estate plan might be missing valuable planning opportunities and could cost your family dearly in extra taxes and administration costs.
•Do you have an estate plan in place? Is it covering all your bases? Take a look at the checklist below. If you can answer “no” or “I don’t know” to any of the following, you should set up an appointment with an estate planner as soon as possible.
• Do you have a will or trust in place? If so, has it been professionally reviewed within the last two years?
• Does your current health care power of attorney permit the person of your choosing (spouse, child, family) to make emergency health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so?
• Are you certain that your current estate plan will minimize possible state and federal estate taxes at your death, including taxes on your house, life insurance and IRAs?
• Have you taken steps to avoid possible will contests and disputes during the administration of your estate?
• Are you satisfied with the persons you’ve named as guardians of your minor children in your current estate plan?
• Does your current estate plan provide creditor and lawsuit protection for assets passed to your surviving spouse and/or children?
• If you have a revocable living trust in place as part of your estate plan, is your trust fully funded so your family can avoid the delays and expenses of probate? (Probate is the court process by which a will or trust is deemed valid or invalid. The legal fees and other expenses involved when an estate goes through probate are deducted from the value of the estate.)
• Does your estate plan protect your children’s inheritance in the event your surviving spouse chooses to remarry?
Again, if you can answer “no” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, contact an estate planner to talk about your needs.