Is Your Estate Planning Up to Date?

THE COUNSELOR

Volume 4 • Issue 8 • October 2014

The Counselor is a monthly newsletter of Hallock & Hallock dedicated to providing useful information on estate planning, business succession planning and charitable planning issues. In this month’s issue, in recognition of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, we will provide some tips on assessing whether or not your estate planning is up to date.  If you are interested in learning more about the ideas and processes discussed in this newsletter please contact us for an initial consultation.


In 2008, the founders of The Financial Awareness Foundation worked with Congress to pass a resolution proclaiming the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. The resolution noted that “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.”

This year National Estate Planning Awareness Week is the week of October 20-26.Estate planning continues to be one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. Research indicates that more than 120 million Americans do not have proper estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. This costs many families wasted dollars and unnecessary hardship that can be minimized with proper planning.While tax issues can play a role in planning, estate planning is not just for the wealthy.

According to a 2014 industry study by WealthCounsel, one of the most common reasons people engage in estate planning is to spare family members and heirs the chaos and conflict that can occur after a person’s death. Another common reason to engage in estate planning is to protect children from mismanaging their inheritance, or to shield their children's inheritance from creditors. Effective estate planning will address issues of retirement, disability, long term care and death.

What is your Plan?

If you don’t have a valid will or trust, then state law will determine how your assets pass, to whom they pass, and when they pass. These are called the laws of intestacy. Leaving your planning up to your local legislature could lead to:

  • The payment of estate and income taxes that could otherwise be avoided.

  • The unnecessary loss of assets to creditors or predators.

  • Your estate being tied up in probate court (possibly for years…).

Questions to Ask

Carefully considering the following questions developed by WealthCounsel can help you determine if your estate plan is up to date:

Do you have a will or a trust in place?

Has your will or trust been professionally reviewed in the last two years?

Does your current Health Care Directive/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?

Does your estate plan contain a customized plan to determine if you are mentally disabled?

Does your current estate plan give instructions for your care and the care of your loved ones in the event of disability?

Are you certain that your current estate plan will minimize possible federal and state estate taxes at your death, including taxes on your house, life insurance and IRAs?

If you have a Revocable Living Trust in place as part of your estate plan, is your trust fully funded so that your family can avoid the delays and expenses of probate?

Have you taken steps to avoid possible will contests and disputes during the administration of your estate? Yes No Don't Know Does your estate plan protect your children’s inheritance in the event your surviving spouse chooses to remarry?

Have you recently checked the beneficiary designations of your retirement plans and life insurance policies, and are you confident that you have not listed your estate or any minor children as either primary or secondary beneficiaries?

Does your current estate plan provide creditor and lawsuit protection for assets passed to your surviving spouse? Yes No Don't Know Does your current estate plan provide creditor and lawsuit protection for assets passed to your children?

Are you confident that your current estate plan is income tax efficient?

Does your current plan protect your children’s inheritance from a divorcing spouse?

Are you satisfied with the persons you named as guardians of your minor children in your current plan?

Are you satisfied with the persons selected as executor and trustee in your current estate plan?

Are you confident that your executor, power of attorney, and successor trustee are prepared to act on your behalf when asked to?

 Conclusion

As part of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, we encourage you to take a moment to review and consider the state of your estate planning. If you answered no or don’t know to any of the above questions you should take the next step and discuss your estate plan with a qualified estate planning advisor.


This Newsletter is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Hallock & Hallock and the reader.