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Planning for the New Year: Your 2020 Estate Planning Checklist

Planning for the New Year: Your 2020 Estate Planning Checklist

The estate planning process inevitably forces you to consider many difficult questions.
No matter how simple or complex your situation is, the best way to ensure your assets go where you want them to is to talk with a skilled estate planning attorney who knows what questions to ask. But what should you be thinking about as you prepare to meet with an estate planning attorney?
We’ve put together a planning checklist compiling the most important estate planning questions to ask yourself.

Do you have a Will or trust?

One of the most important goals of any estate plan is to choose when, how, and to whom your assets will be distributed. Wills and revocable trusts each accomplish this in slightly different ways. While trusts are more complicated and expensive to set up than Wills, they allow you to avoid probate and help you plan for end-of-life or incapacity, in a more creative, intnetional, and tax-efficient way. Trusts also require more maintenance during your lifetime than Wills.
As you’re creating your Will or trust, another factor to consider is how much control you want over the way your beneficiaries use your assets. For example, if you want a certain amount of money to be dedicated to your beneficiary’s education expenses, the down-payment on a new home, or a business venture, your attorney can help you ensure that happens.

Do you have an Advance Directive and Power of Attorney?

An advance directive is often called a “health care power of attorney” or a “living will.” It’s a document, as part of your plan, that allows you to communicate your wishes when it comes to medical treatment and end-of-life decisions in the event that an illness or injury ever renders your ability to communicate them in person.
Similarly, a Power of Attorney names someone you trust to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to manage them yourself.
These are difficult conversations to have, but planning for incapacity is a good idea for people of all ages. It’s helpful to know that you and your finances will be cared for in any situation.

Do you have a wealth-transfer strategy in place?

If you have a high net worth, or doing any kind of succession planning, you’ll want to make sure your estate plan allows you to distribute your assets the way you intend them to, in the most tax-efficient way.
Estate and gift tax issues can be particularly complicated to navigate. Strategies like charitable gift planning can help ensure your assets are reserved for you, your loved ones, and/or causes you care about both during your life and after your passing.

Do you have life insurance?

A life insurance policy is one of the simplest ways to provide for your loved ones after death. Some types of life insurance even offer benefits during your lifetime, especially during retirement.
Without proper planning, life insurance can have significant tax consequences for your beneficiaries, so it’s important to work with an attorney who can help you structure your life insurance to minimize the tax burden on your estate.

If you’re a business owner, do you have a business succession strategy?

Most business owners want to make sure everything they have built will endure, should something happen to them. If you’re planning for a succession someday, you’ll want to ensure everyone involved is prepared for a smooth transition.
It’s also a good idea to communicate your intentions to your family and employees. If people in your life are unpleasantly surprised by your decisions, it’s not uncommon for legal disputes to arise, and these disputes can end up hurting your business and your loved ones.

Are you prepared for a sudden emergency?

When you’re preparing your estate plan, you hope everything goes as expected, but a good estate plan will also prepare for the unexpected. If tragedy suddenly and unexpectedly strikes, what will happen to your home, assets and loved ones? Here are some questions to consider:
  • Who needs to be taken care of if you suddenly pass away or become incapacitated?
  • Do you have minor children, pets, or other dependents?
  • Have you communicated your wishes to the important people named in your estate plan?

We can help you protect your estate and your legacy

At Gevurtz Menashe, our goal is to help you protect the people and things that matter most. When you meet with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys, we will go over these questions and many more to create a comprehensive plan that meets your goals and brings you the peace of mind that things will be taken care of.
The first step is to schedule a consultation. If you’re ready, call our Portland offices at 503-227-1515, our Vancouver offices at 360-823-0410, or contact us online to get started.