Cook Wealth Management Group

Things Change – Is Your Estate Plan Ready?

estate planningIf you don’t have an estate plan, you should – for the protection of your family in case you become incapacitated or pass away. Though it may be difficult to think about your death and consider all the complex financial possibilities, with the help of your financial advisor, the process will be constructive and the results invaluable.

Estate tax and gift tax laws may change, making it even more important to prepare an estate plan or re-examine your existing estate documents. Reviewing your estate plan is smart even if law changes aren’t as drastic as anticipated or don’t directly affect you. Be sure that your estate plan is a current and accurate reflection of your wishes.

new guidelines

  • If your estate plan is several years old, it may not include HIPAA authorization. Without it, your healthcare power of attorney is not authorized to access your medical records, making it more difficult to make medical decisions on your behalf.
  • A revocable living trust agreement sidesteps the probate process and is now preferred over a will. Ask your advisor if a living trust is optimal for you.

new circumstances

  • Perhaps your situation has changed. Divorce or relocation may cause you to reconsider who will make decisions for you. If your power of attorney passes away or becomes ill, quickly appoint someone else.
  • Beneficiaries on your insurance policies and retirement accounts should be up to date and in accordance with your estate plan.

new objectives

  • Talk with your advisor about asset protection. If you’re especially susceptible to being sued, (i.e., medical professionals) your assets are not guaranteed protected just because they’re in a revocable trust; you may need to make asset protection a more significant part of your estate plan.
  • If you’d like to fund a trust, consult your tax advisor first; discuss income and estate tax savings and/or deed preparation to ensure your funding method is appropriate for your goals.

This article is based on content from “Twelve Indicators…” by Randy Garner et al, Journal of Financial Planning, Oct. 2009.
For informational purposes only; not intended to substitute tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal professional before making any estate changes.