With less than one month before the end of 2017, you still have a small window of time to address some important estate planning tasks before year-end. Consider these top five estate planning tasks before saying goodbye to 2017.
#1 Get started on estate planning. If you haven’t taken any estate planning steps, mark the new year as your deadline to get started on your estate planning. Think about what your personal estate planning goals and objectives are. Research your options and talk to an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you determine what is important to you and what estate planning option would work best for your family circumstance. It doesn’t matter if you are old or young, if you have built up considerable wealth or if you are just entering adulthood — you need a written plan to keep you in control and to protect yourself and those you love.
# 2 Execute basic health care documents. At the minimum, everyone over the age of 18 needs 1) a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death decisions) for you if you are unable to make them for yourself; and 2) HIPPA Authorizations, which give written consent for doctors to discuss your medical situation with others, including family members. This would include documents for your unmarried married kids who are over the age of 18. It’s a mild shock when we learn we can’t see our college kids’ grades without their permission, even though we pay the tuition. It can be much worse if they become ill. Unmarried adults (18 and over) need to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and HIPPA Authorization so you can act on their behalf in a medical emergency.
# 3 Review any existing estate plan as well as beneficiaries. Your life may change due to new births, children getting older and new family circumstances. There may be a change to your finances, career and health, where you live or your core values. Now is the perfect time to review your existing plan and if there are changes, you can share these changes with family members over the holidays. Be sure to review your beneficiaries too. This is especially important if your beneficiary has died or if you are divorced. If your beneficiary is incapacitated or is a minor, setting up a trust for this person and naming the trust as beneficiary will prevent the court from taking control of the proceeds
# 4 Put a kids’ safeguard plan in place. If you have minor children, have you considered what would happen to them in both the short and long-term should something happen to you and your spouse? Choosing a guardian is critical. Or if you’ve already named a guardian for your minor children, the person you may have named as guardian for your children when they were small may not be the best choice as they get older. Now is an ideal time to revisit your choice. Consider naming more than one guardian in case your first choice cannot serve. Financially speaking, now is also the perfect time to review your life insurance policies to ensure your kids will be financially secure should something happen to you.
#5 Make tax-free gifts. For 2017, you can give up to $14,000 to as many people as you wish over the year. This is a great way to reduce the size of your estate (and potentially save estate taxes) over time. Charitable gifts and gifts for tuition and medical expenses (if you give directly to the institution) are unlimited. Note that the annual exclusion amount will increase to $15,000 in 2018.
Set January 1, 2018 as your deadline for accomplishing these important estate planning tasks. Contact the Socius Law Firm today to help you achieve these estate planning tasks before year-end.