Marla Bohlander Authors Article on Estate Plan Review for Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine
Originally published in the December 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Business & Wealth.
Reviewing Your Estate Plan
As we approach a new year, I have been encouraging my clients to review their estate plans.
Estate planning generally involves the management and disposition of a person’s assets and affairs, both during their lifetime and after death. While this is a great oversimplification, here are a few reminders to consider:
Barring any changes in the law, the current estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption amounts are set to remain in place through the end of 2025. These higher exemption amounts ($10 million per person, indexed for inflation such that in 2018 these amounts are $11.18 million per person) could cause unintended consequences in existing estate plans that tie a division of an estate’s assets to the existing exemption amount.
Be sure to review individuals who are named as guardians of minor children, the personal representative (or executor) of your estate under your last will and testament, and trustee of any trust created under your last will and testament or revocable trust agreement. In addition, you may wish to consider whether it is appropriate to name a corporate fiduciary as a personal representative or trustee, or as a co-personal representative or co-trustee, in conjunction with other individuals named in your documents.
Changes in your family’s dynamics such as marriage or divorce, the birth of a grandchild, death of a family member, etc. are all reasons to revisit your estate plan to ensure adequate planning is in place. In addition, thought should be given to beneficiaries who may be considered spendthrifts, or beneficiaries who have “special needs”, when deciding how assets will pass to these persons.
Ensure beneficiary designation forms on financial institution accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies or other assets for which the managing institution permits you to designate a beneficiary are consistent with your overall estate plan since the disposition of these assets is not controlled by your last will and testament or revocable trust agreement (unless you designate your estate or trust as the beneficiary on such forms).
Durable Power of Attorney
Designating an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” under a durable power of attorney may help to avoid the need for a court-supervised guardianship in the event of your incapacity. In addition, you may want to inquire with certain financial institutions, such as a bank, to see whether the institution has its own form of power of attorney document that may be beneficial to sign along with a more standard durable power of attorney document.
Advance Directives (i.e., Living Will, Designation of Health Care Surrogate)
Express your wishes and identify who should be able to have access to your health care information and to make health care decisions on your behalf.
Depending on the types and values of assets that you own, changes in your family or financial situation and changes in the law, your overall estate plan should be reviewed every few years. Making a habit to do this at the end of the year can help you better plan and manage your affairs in the future.