A new year brings new opportunities to help you protect your legacy through estate planning. Here are five ways to optimize estate planning that are too important to abandon by February, including multigenerational planning, digital sharing, tax law changes, a general checkup and philanthropy.
1. Involve heirs and advisors
There are some significant advantages to involving your heirs in estate planning, or at a minimum informing them. If you are comfortable discussing the estate plan with heirs, it can head off issues such as someone contesting a will. It can also ensure your wishes are carried out.
Keep key figures in your estate plan in the loop, such as adult children or grandchildren, caregivers, and other professional advisors like CPAs. You’ll also want to keep in mind that sharing what’s in an estate plan can cause conflict within a family, so it pays to take a thoughtful approach to revealing this information.
2. Consolidate in a secure portal
Part of the estate planning process is making sure your finished documents are secure and accessible to the right people. That may mean adding important documents to secure file-sharing platforms or making sure passwords to online accounts are kept in a safe location that can be accessed in the event of your incapacity or death. Your advisor can provide assistance in organizing and accounting for key information.
3. Update plans to reflect recent law changes
In light of the significant changes ushered in by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and as details of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 are getting clarified, it’s a good idea to check in with your advisor and estate attorney about any potential impacts to your estate plan. Particularly, if you have named a trust as beneficiary of a retirement account, you may want to review the plan for how the assets will be handled or distributed. In addition, with the uncertainty that comes with the 2020 elections ahead, now is the time to plan.
4. Consider any changes in your life
It’s important to periodically review an estate plan to make sure it’s still in sync with your wishes. For example, does the trustee need updating? Do you need to consider adding the role of trust protector – someone appointed to help safeguard the trust and help it adapt to changes in law or circumstances?
5. Take charitable giving into account
The higher standard deduction created by the 2017 tax law has made reaping the tax benefits of charitable giving trickier. However, you can still access tax benefits by using non-grantor trusts, giving through qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) from an IRA if you are 70½ or older, or bunching donations in a donor advised fund.
Estate planning is an essential part of any financial plan, and providing for your loved ones and favorite charities for the long term is important. Through these resolutions, you can be sure to align your goals for 2020 and beyond.
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