ESTATE PLANNING UPDATES: NOT JUST “SET IT AND FORGET IT”
Over 70 percent of all Americans have no estate planning documents whatsoever. Of the 30 percent that do, most have only basic documents like a Last Will and Testament, with no regard to probate avoidance, estate tax reduction or asset protection. Of those people that do incorporate a Revocable Living Trust into their foundational estate plan, over 90 percent will leave the trust underfunded or unfunded at death, causing the unnecessary loss of assets and unnecessary delay of distribution. Some basic estate planning upkeep could alleviate all of these concerns.
Your estate plan should be reviewed with an attorney at least once every 3 to 5 years. I review my clients’ estate plans each year to determine if any changes need to be made due to a change in tax law (as happened in 2010), legal drafting requirements (as happened in 2005) or the Probate Code (as happens most years). However, the more pressing changes almost always occur on the personal side of the equation.
Over the course of every 5 year period, most families will see a birth, a death, a marriage or a divorce and this event could cause the need for an amendment to the estate plans of the individual members of that family. Additionally, the beneficiaries might be at different ages or competency levels and the Trustees, Personal Representatives and Guardians might be in different stages in life, areas of the country or financial levels than they were when you originally drafted your plan, which would cause the immediate need to revise and choose new role players.
Another consideration is the age of your attorney. Your estate planning attorney needs to be able to walk your children or other beneficiaries through the administration process. Is your attorney still alive? Is he still practicing? Will he still be practicing when you die? Does he practice in the state in which you currently live?
Any estate planning attorney should give you a free consultation for the review of your estate plan. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A simple review and possible amendment to your estate plan today will save your family large amounts of money and time after you are gone