You have done the work of creating a comprehensive estate plan. It may not have been easy making those decisions, but it can be a great feeling of relief to know that your loved ones are provided for and that your hard-earned assets will go to those you wish to have them with minimal estate taxes. But nothing is constant except change. Once you have a solid estate plan in place, you should review your plan about every three to five years and whenever you experience any life changes. The routine review helps you to focus on ways that your goals may have changed. In addition to routine reviews, a review is needed anytime you experience a change in circumstances. This can include:
Birth of a child
Adoption of a child
Death or change in circumstance of someone you named as executor or guardian
Change in financial circumstances
Starting a business
Arrival of grandchildren
Change in circumstances of your children
The most crucial steps in estate planning are having a will, powers of attorney for financial and medical decision making, a living will, and a trust. This planning ensures that your property will be transferred as you wish when the time comes. Preplanning is often seen as expensive but actually saves money, hassle, and heartache in the long run. Once this is done, the occasional review helps you to keep your affairs in order. So, what exactly do you need to review?
First review all your assets and how they are titled. This includes your home, car, vacation home, travel trailer, etc. If you have a living trust, assets should be titled to the trust. Next, review insurance policies. Be sure the amount is still appropriate, and check beneficiaries. If you have taken out a policy with a specific purpose in mind, be sure you have talked to the beneficiaries about this, so they know your wishes. Some examples might be insurance policies to take care of your final arrangements or to help a child or grandchildren with educational expenses. Then look over your trust to be sure that the correct person(s) are still beneficiaries. Once all assets have been reviewed, spend some time thinking about your financial goals.
Now, consider what has changed since your estate plan was developed. Did you get married or develop a long-term relationship with someone you want to provide for? Is one of your children struggling with addiction or health problems? Do you have a child or grandchild with special needs that you wish to provide for? Is there a charity that you would like to see benefit? These are all very realistic issues that need thoughtful consideration.
It may be that the person that you designated as your personal representative or guardian for your children is no longer able to do this or has even pre-deceased you. This is the time to choose another person to act as your personal representative. Laws vary from one state to another, so having an experienced South Carolina attorney review your estate plan is a smart move. In addition, laws change over time, so if it has been several years since your plan was reviewed, an attorney can be sure your estate plan meets the most recent changes to the laws of your state. If you have opened a business, it is especially important for you to develop a business succession plan as part of your overall estate planning process. This ensures that a person or persons of your choosing runs your business.
Once you are clear about your unique circumstances and your wishes, an attorney can help you modify your estate plan so that your wishes are carried out. A consultation can be well worth paying for, to be sure that estate taxes are minimized, your loved ones are provided for in ways that comply with your wishes, and there is a clear plan of succession for your business. At Stratton and Reynolds our attorneys pride ourselves on listening closely to our clients and working hard to meet their needs with knowledge of the latest changes in inheritance and estate tax laws. Contact us today for a comprehensive review of your estate plan.