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The Season of Giving: Why Having an Estate Plan is a Gift to Others

The Season of Giving: Why Having an Estate Plan is a Gift to Others

With the holiday season in full swing and tax time on the horizon, this is a great time to think about updating your estate plan.  In a very positive way, approaching your estate plan now with the goal of wanting to make life easier for your spouse, children and loved ones is empowering and a true gift to your family that will have lasting impact.  Here are four tips to help you accomplish your estate planning goals:

1. Planning for Incapacity.

Establishing both a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and a Health Care Advance Directive while you are healthy will set the stage for an orderly transition in the event that you require help managing your finances or if your family needs to step in to help with end-of-life medical decision-making. Planning ahead now for an unexpected “during life” injury or illness often minimizes family disagreements and will provide peace of mind during trying times. 

2. Stating your Wishes in a Will or Trust.

Investing time now to thoughtfully develop a comprehensive Last Will or Revocable Living Trust allows you to express your wishes about who will manage your affairs upon your death, aids you in addressing estate tax planning considerations as necessary, and enables you to specifically name your intended beneficiaries to inherit from your estate.  For some, establishing a Revocable Living Trust makes sense and has the added benefit of avoiding probate court costs and simplifying the estate administration process for your children.

3. Protecting Minors and Family Members with Special Needs.

An estate plan that protects minor children and persons with disabilities can be integrated into both Wills and Revocable Living Trusts. Nominating someone you trust to serve as guardian for children under age 18 is important should something unexpectedly happen to you. In addition, it is often wise to include a minor or young adult trust and name a trustee to manage inherited funds to safeguard the financial futures of your children. Trust provisions such as these can be drafted into Wills, as well as Revocable Living Trusts. Estate planning is also available to help protect the financial future of children and grandchildren with special needs by maintaining overall quality of life and protecting needs-based medical and Social Security benefits. Setting up care-giving and financial protections for your most vulnerable family members creates stability for the future.

4. Making End of Year Charitable Donations.

Finally, when helping worthy charities meet their end of year donation goals, don’t forget how charitable giving can also benefit your estate. All amounts you give to charity during your lifetime reduce your taxable estate. If your estate is subject to estate tax, every dollar gifted can save you an estimated 40 cents in estate tax. 

Charitable gifts take many forms. Whether you choose to give a direct one-time amount or, alternatively, establish a Charitable Trust or Annuity that allow you to reserve an income stream, know there are giving options available to meet almost any philanthropic goal and reduce your taxable estate. 

When thinking about developing a new estate plan or updating an existing Will or Revocable Living Trust, remember that your estate planning attorney will help you tailor an estate plan that meets your unique family dynamic and successfully navigates the complex and ever-changing gift and estate tax rules.

We understand that starting this process is the hardest part and our estate planning lawyers at Gevurtz Menashe are here to assist you. Give us a call today. Our Portland offices can be reached at 503-227-1515 and our Vancouver office at 360-823-0410. You may also contact us online to schedule a consultation.

*This is general information only and not meant to apply to specific situations without consulting a tax professional*

Written by Amy J. Cross, Of Counsel at Gevurtz Menashe. Amy is a member of the Oregon state bar and focuses her practice exclusively on estate planning issues, including wills and revocable trusts, estate and gift taxes, probate administration, asset protection planning, and beneficiary and trustee representation.