Wednesday, January 28, 2015
January is generally a busy month for estate planners as clients follow up on resolutions to get their estate plans in order. Regardless of whether you are hearing from clients, consider being proactive with them since the beginning of the year is a perfect time to handle many estate planning tasks. Below is list to help update and review clients’ estate plans.
- Make exclusion Gifts Early. Although many clients know that each year they can make annual exclusion gifts, they may not know the best possible time to make these gifts is at the beginning of the year. This way, if something were to happen to a client during the course of the year, the value of the gift would already be outside of the estate for estate tax purposes.
- Fund Revocable Trusts. Help clients put assets into a revocable trust in order to provide quick access in the event of incapacity or death, and to keep personal affairs private.
- Check Beneficiary Designations. A common and potentially costly mistake involves outdated or never signed beneficiary designation forms. For many clients, life insurance policies and retirement benefits represent valuable assets and if these are incorrect, making changes can be expensive or even impossible.
- Review Named Fiduciaries. Choosing fiduciaries in an estate plan is critical. Moreover, you must review these fiduciaries on a regular basis. While a client may have named the right person or institution at a certain point in time, subsequent changes could have altered their situation.
- Get Procrastinators to Act. Even though it can be difficult to motivate an unmotivated client, an unexpected incapacity or death is even more difficult for a family and is not a rare occurrence. It is critical to lay out your client’s options and ensure they understand the detriments of failing to have an estate plan in place.
See Tracy Craig, Estate Planning Checklist: 5 Things to Do Now, Financial Planning, Jan. 27, 2015.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.