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Is It Time For An Estate Planning Checkup?

April 11, 2003

/
James P. Dean

Article Originally Published: Fall 2003

The information contained in this article is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should not act or rely on this information without consulting an attorney.

Even the most carefully crafted estate plan should be revisited periodically to make sure that it is in line with changing laws and life circumstances.

  • Be sure that estate assets are set up to minimize estate taxes at death and avoid overfunding or underfunding of post-death trusts;
  • Review powers of attorney for health care and property to confirm that they reflect current wishes;
  • Make adjustments to reflect the death or disability of a beneficiary, or a significant change in a beneficiary’s needs;
  • Update a living trust, which allows an estate plan to be carried out with minimal court involvement;
  • Retitle assets in your name as trustee of your living trust if you want to avoid probate upon disability or death;
  • Review how you hold title to assets (i.e., payable on death, joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, etc.);
  • Name appropriate guardians for minor children in your will;
  • If you have included a marital gift or a marital trust upon the death of one spouse, consider making the provisions more or less restrictive;
  • Examine the scope of “powers of appointment” that allow a survivor to redirect where assets will eventually pass;
  • Confirm that the timing as to when a beneficiary will receive or have the right to demand principal is compatible with current wishes;
  • Make any revisions suggested by changes in the family such as disabilities, births, deaths, or changed marital status;
  • Reassess how title to your home is held;
  • Consider the different options for designating beneficiaries for IRA accounts, pension plans and other assets related to retirement;
  • Possibly make annual gifts to children and others free of estate and gift taxes (up to $13,000 per person per year in 2009);
  • Consider setting up separate trusts or Section 529 education funding plans for children or grandchildren.

In addition to these considerations, there is a broad range of estate planning options, one or more of which may be desirable based on current circumstances. Among these devices are charitable trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, family limited partnerships, family foundations, self-canceling installment notes, and qualified personal residence trusts. We can help you sort through the possibilities and arrive at an estate plan that keeps up with changing conditions.