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Estate Planning Resolutions for the New Year

inheritance lawyers near me

Estate Planning Resolutions for the New Year

Set your estate planning goals for the new year right away!

Just when you thought New Year’s goals were only to stop eating corn dogs and lose weight!  Estate planning makes for the most interesting New Year’s resolutions.  The Estate Planning New Year’s resolutions listed below will help safeguard you and your loved ones.  So start your estate planning now as the gyms flood with New Year’s resolve couch potatoes for at least a month. 

Get Savvy

The “Get Smart” secret agent Maxwell Smart understood that CONTROL was the key.  You must control your life as you age, deal with health issues, etc.  Maybe it’s time also to change how you view estate planning.  The same logic applies to life planning, including retirement, illness, handicap, young children, college, etc.

43% of Gen Z want to retire before 65.   They require estate planning!    Retirement, insurance, and other preparation are all part of estate planning.  If you want to retire before your parents and grandparents, you must carry disability and life insurance.  Planning for death and becoming elderly may seem dismal, but it is necessary for your safety net.  So act wisely and jump on the estate planning train right away.

When There’s A Will, There’s A Way

According to some studies, 67% of Americans lack an estate plan or will.  That is a poor choice.  Most people want their wealth to go to those they choose, not those the law decides to pass it on to, on their demise.  Furthermore, most state intestacy laws (dying without a will) were drafted when the Cleaver family represented the average American household (in the 1950s!).  More than two-thirds of children today reside in non-traditional families.  In a first marriage, having a mother, a father, and a few children is not the usual or even the majority.  Our family unit rarely looks like the makings of a 1950’s family sitcom.  Loved ones will suffer if you rely on antiquated state laws just because you don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness of creating a will.

Kid Care!

You must have a will since it specifies who will serve as the children’s guardian if something happens to you.  If you don’t take action, the courts decide who will care for the children.  Will a judge know that your brother is a member of the Borg Collective (bad Star Trek reference!)?   Identify a guardian. 

Ensure You Have The Paperwork That Most People Require.

While estate planning must highlight “planning,” the standard paperwork that most people have are also necessary for you to attain your goals.  Below is a list.  It’s time to upgrade if you are missing any of them or if you listed any contacts you haven’t spoken to in a long time.

A Power of Attorney is a document that names a representative to manage financial, tax, and legal affairs.

A Living Will is a declaration of medical preferences.  This provides instructions for the agent that you designate under your health proxy.  An excellent spot to record religious or other personal wishes is also there.

A Health Proxy is a representative you choose to make healthcare choices if you cannot.

HIPAA Release – designate someone to communicate with healthcare providers and have access to your medical records, but necessarily to make medical decisions.  Making medical decisions is the role of the health proxy.

Emergency Child Medical Form When a child becomes unwell while you’re on a global cruise, fill out this emergency child medical form.  You must name a person to make medical choices for the minor children and provide that person with crucial information.

A Will designates a personal administrator to oversee your estate, distribute assets, and name guardians for youngsters and adults.

Revocable Trusts fill in the gaps left by a will and a power of attorney by appointing new trustees to oversee the trust’s assets and assist you, particularly if you’re elderly or disabled.  In addition, a Revocable Trust could reduce probate and publicity after death.

Beneficiary Designations specify who will get retirement funds, insurance proceeds, and other assets upon death.

A Deed, and other Title Documents, is a formal legal document certifying real estate ownership.  For example, if you and another person own your home, you are joint tenants, meaning each of you has an interest in the property.  Your interest in the property goes to the surviving when you pass away.  Like ownership paperwork, bank accounts and other assets may be designated as “Pay on Death to” or “Transfer on Death to,” which governs who can access the assets and who inherits them.

Make a list of every document you have and check to determine if it is still relevant.  Talk to a professional and ensure they still fit your needs if the papers are over 3–5 years old.  Another reason to check is if you have undergone substantial life changes after they were completed (divorce, marriage, the birth of new children, serious health concerns, etc.).  Again, it would probably be better for you to review that with a professional.  Cheaper options and online solutions may not work if you don’t fit into the ordinary molds.  You could spend more money using low-cost or online resources than hiring a professional due to simple omissions in the “standardized” forms.  For instance, you should exercise caution when using inexpensive online solutions or anything considered “standard.” When you are elderly, protecting assets from Medicaid, have a family business or professional practice requiring succession planning, or if you have a sizable net worth, standard fill-in-the-blank options are likely inappropriate.

Analyze Your Insurance

There are numerous different kinds of insurance.  Purchasing every insurance policy available might not be the best course of action because you might not need it all, and few people can afford it.  Significant and dangerous gaps in one’s insurance coverage are typical.  You must ensure adequate coverage for dangers that could harm you or those you love.  Deductibles and other specifics can frequently be changed to customize coverage to your needs and financial constraints.  Personal excess liability and umbrella insurance are two types of coverage that are commonly ignored.  That policy protects you from claims and lawsuits beyond what is covered by your homeowners’ and auto insurance.

Given that many standard homeowner and auto plans have more constrained liability coverage limitations, such as $500,000, this can be crucial to safeguarding your wealth.  You probably require more coverage if your estate is significantly more than the liability coverage on your policy.  Make sure the coverage is appropriate for your circumstances.  For example, if you own a home that you rent out, it should generally be insured as a rental, not as your dwelling.  A disaster could bankrupt you if you don’t have enough property, casualty, and liability coverage. 

No matter how ironclad your will was when first drafted, it might no longer matter because you may no longer have enough money to make the bequests you planned to make.  Whatever retirement plans you have might not matter because even the best-laid plans could go awry if unprotected assets are lost (pension funds, for example, may be immune to claims).

Disability and long-term care insurance are frequently neglected.  Yet, that coverage could be crucial to guaranteeing you have the finances to survive if you become incapacitated.

It is not only the wealthy that need insurance planning.  Those with less means might require the coverage even more, to protect their loved ones and themselves from financial hazards and plan gaps.

Insurance preparation is not solely for those less fortunate than you.  Wealthy individuals can still employ innovative insurance planning to reduce estate tax and support other planning strategies.

Understand Your Balance Sheet

Your ability to create and maintain an accurate balance sheet will be crucial to your estate planning and other related activities.  Think about the following:

Disability: If you become ill or incapacitated, the person you designate as your agent or successor trustee under a power of attorney or revocable trust will be responsible for gathering assets, handling payments, and providing for your needs.  How can they assist you if they don’t have a detailed inventory of all your assets, including their specifics (bank or financial institution, account number, password, contact information, etc.)?  Always keep in mind that estate planning should involve both planning for both life and death.

You cannot analyze your risks and assets without a balance sheet detailing the different assets and how they are owned to ensure appropriate coverage.  For instance, it is probably best to hold a rental property under a limited liability corporation (or “LLC”) to shield your assets from a tenant’s lawsuit.  But for the insurance policy to be correctly drafted, your insurance consultant won’t be aware that the residence is in an LLC and not owned individually.

Asset Allocation: To correctly assess and update (rebalance) your investment allocation, your investment adviser has to be aware of every asset you own.  Too frequently, people merely disclose some of their assets to their financial advisors.  You must be completely honest if you want the work done well.

Planning for retirement: Having all the facts is essential.  Why is it important for your investment advisor to be aware of the vacation house you recently purchased?  Your budget needs to be revised to account for these additional costs since maintaining it will demand cash flow (property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.).  Additionally, selling your vacation home may be vital to achieving your retirement planning objectives if you decide to retire at a certain age and can no longer utilize it.

Asset protection: To shield your assets against lawsuits and claims, you must assess each item on your balance sheet and consider the best way to safeguard them.  Examine the risk each item on your balance sheet may bring about to your heirs.  Planning to protect assets is an important activity for everyone.  A thorough balance sheet is the starting place for this investigation.

Managing all Trusts and Entities Correctly

All documents governing irrevocable trusts (insurance trusts, spousal lifetime access trust, Gun Trusts, asset protection trusts, etc.) or business and investment companies (e.g., LLCs, LLPs, S corporations, etc.) should be routinely reviewed to ensure that they still meet your needs.  Courts, creditors, and IRS might not recognize each irrevocable trust and entity if you don’t follow the procedures and respect their independent reality.  If you have irrevocable trusts or entities, you should work with professionals (CPA, lawyer, etc.) rather than doing everything yourself.  Decide to organize all pertinent paperwork for all trusts and entities and review them annually with your advisors if you haven’t.  Review this information with your advisors each year to reduce costs and complexity.  It is a mistake to believe you are saving time and money by visiting these infrequently.  If you do not continuously review these, you may compound their errors, significantly increasing the cost, inconvenience, and even risks associated with these vehicles.

Planning for Trust Income Taxes

Irrevocable complicated (non-grantor) trusts can pay tax at the highest rate on as little as $14,000 in income.  Compare that to a married couple, who would not reach the highest tax bracket until they earn around $600,000 in income.  Trusts are an effective tool in asset preservation and estate tax planning.  However, you should keep an eye on these trusts’ income tax profiles.  There are various inventive ways to increase the trusts’ prospective beneficiaries when establishing new trusts, allowing for more adaptable income tax planning.  To reduce the total income tax loads on an existing trust, you should assess the permitted beneficiaries and their expected tax profiles and decide how and when to make trust distributions.

What connection exists between estate preparation and trust income tax planning?  Everything!  Most estate plans are built on trusts.  The consequences of that potentially unnecessary income tax burden can have significant negative impact on the wealth you can preserve and pass on if income tax planning is not examined at least yearly.

“What’s Left”

We are all unique.  No such thing as a typical estate plan exists.  Consider any unique worries, challenges, or points your plan would benefit from addressing.  Then, write those down on your list of things to do this year.

Get It Done

Put it in writing.  Commit to dedicating at least a few hours every other weekend to make it happen.  For example, “By February 15, we’ll have hired an attorney to create new documentation,” “By March 10, we’ll have a new thorough balance statement,” etc.  These are milestones you might set for completing your list.  Despite its importance, estate planning cannot compete with nearly anything else on your to-do list.  You’ll remain in the same place by the end of 2023 if you don’t create a plan and strive to advance in manageable chunks.  Over time, even small actions add up to significant progress.  Commit and carry on.


Summerfield Law Office, P.A.
11256 Boyette Rd,
Riverview, FL 33569
Phone: Riverview
(813) 850-0025
Wesley Chapel
(813) 993-0190






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