You have a will, so you figure you’re covered, right?
Maybe, but maybe not. There are a number of reasons why you should review your estate documents regularly, from tax-related issues to changing family dynamics. Let’s walk through a couple of the significant items to consider:
1. Ever-changing estate tax laws
The estate tax exclusion over the last 10 years has ranged from $3.5 million to $11.4 million per person. The expectation is that sometime in the near future that number is going to go back down.
If your potential estate falls within these ranges, it is very important to review your documents to make sure they will accomplish your goals.
Some might say, as long as the exclusion is increasing there is no need to worry. However, if you implemented trusts when the exclusion was at $3.5 million and now that the exclusion is $11.5 million, those trusts are serving no purpose, other than to make your estate complicated for your heirs to handle. Trusts were very popular for a time, but now can just be an unnecessary level of complexity and cost for your estate.
2. Change in family dynamics
As your family grows or changes, it is beneficial to review the language of your estate documents to make sure it covers your family members in the way you intended. Review not only your will but also your IRA accounts, life insurance policies and any other specifically designated assets.
If you have experienced a divorce or death in the family, consult with your legal counsel to update your estate documents as soon as possible. If you have small children, have you planned for their needs, who will take care of them, who will manage their funds until they turn of age or how you will protect the family business until they are of age to take it over?
3. Change in the value of your estate
We know tax laws are always changing, but the value of your estate could significantly change over the years. This is important to consider when drafting your estate documents.
If you have used language that designates specific dollar amounts to heirs, consider reevaluating these amounts periodically to ensure they are still applicable based on the current value of your estate.
If your estate has increased in value, are you evaluating the potential tax implications, the potential benefits of including charitable organizations in your estate plan, or the need for additional structure, such as trusts?
Put your family in the best position possible
Unfortunately, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Being prepared for the worst will put your surviving heirs in the best position possible to handle your absence and hopefully avoid any legal battles.
The importance of estate planning is to make sure your wishes are followed when you are gone, so now is the best time to make the commitment to get these things done. If you don’t, you will be leaving it up to state law to designate your estate plan, and this may not be in accordance with what your wishes would have been.
If you have questions about the tax implications of your estate plans, we’re happy to help. Contact us today.