Why Checking In With Your Estate Planner Now, Is a Wise Decision. 

An attorney specializing in estate planning can help you fill gaps and ensure everything is in order for the new financial year.

The start of a new year is an excellent opportunity to take stock of our lives and resolve to make positive changes. Despite our best intentions, we’ll likely all be back at work, back at the office or back at the gym.

One resolution, however, is universally applicable and requires little effort to accomplish. We should look at our wills and other estate plans every new year. Consider it a preventative treatment on par with an annual dental exam. Make sure that you and your lawyer have a yearly checkup scheduled today before any problems arise. Verify that there are no missing pieces and that all gaps have been filled. Verify that your attorney is still in business; if not, start looking for a new one.

In the end, estate planning is all about the people involved. When we pass on, we want to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of financially. We need to know that reliable individuals will be in charge of managing our estates under our wishes. We want to discover that no one has been forgotten or mistakenly included.

Why wait until after the holidays to mark off “people” on your list? Over our visit, we could catch up with old acquaintances and meet new members of our extended family. It could be a good idea to go back through our family tree and add some additional branches. The kids are grown up, married, and starting their own families, and what we had intended to leave them when they were younger no longer makes sense to those of us sitting around our holiday tables discussing such matters.

Our original intentions for them, formulated many years ago, may no longer be relevant. Tragically, deaths have also occurred over the past 12 months. Our estate plans should be updated now to reflect this reality by redistributing assets or changing who receives them.

We should reevaluate our choice of executors and attorneys-in-fact. They may be unable to carry out their duties because of personal health problems, memory loss, or other life changes, and they might have died before we did. Making a new power of attorney or appointing a new executor requires less time and effort than drafting a new will or trust. Time is of the essence, so commit now to doing it right.

Even the property we intend to leave to our heirs has likely undergone transformations. A large storm could have caused significant damage or destroyed a home. The value of the land we bought two decades ago has increased dramatically. The increasing worth of such property will likely distort our intention to leave equal shares to our beneficiaries.

Hire a professional appraiser to determine the accurate market value of your estate’s real estate, artwork, and other valuables. You should be able to change distributions using the numbers they tell you. Be sure to request a new appraisal if you expect significant changes this year, whether from selling property or other modifications. The more favorable the odds, the more likely your requests will be granted.

Just like death, taxes are something that can’t be avoided. The laws have changed, but you can still leave your loved ones the most considerable possible inheritance by familiarizing yourself with the nuances of these changes. You can give more to your kids and grandkids with inflation-adjusted estate tax and gift tax thresholds. Also, federal and state law changes may impact your estate’s distribution.

The inspection should cover the previous year’s legal climate and what’s in store for the next 12 months in terms of legislation. Is there any proposed legislation that would affect your options? How forceful should you be in light of public perceptions of the law? You may have encountered changes that have legal ramifications even if there have been no statutory changes; some states’ legislatures meet only every other year. Your attorney can advise you on the best course to take in light of these modifications.

Your estate planning checkup should leave you with a game plan, just like a trip to the doctor does. After the discussion, you may feel secure in the status of your estate plan, or you may have a list of items to take care of, such as obtaining new powers of attorney and updating values.