Time to Review Estate Plans
As 2022 winds down, it’s not too early to start thinking about projects for 2023. One project, if you have not done so in a while, is to review your estate plan. Estate plans should be reviewed occasionally and updated as needed. The following are some items to look at when reviewing an estate plan.
Health Care Power of Attorney. Check who you have identified as your health care power of attorney. Is the designated person(s) who you want to act on your behalf and is their address and phone number up to date? It is also good to have a backup power of attorney in case your primary person is unable or unwilling to serve.
Living Will. If you have a Living Will, check to be sure the contact person(s) and their contact information is up to date. Remember that a Living Will is the end-of-life directive that gives permission to a doctor or hospital to withhold or discontinue artificial life support.
Financial Power of Attorney. You should also check to see who you have designated as your financial power of attorney and make sure their contact information is current. Do you want to make changes to who will serve as your financial power of attorney?
Wills/Trusts. These documents determine who will inherit your assets when you pass away. Review who you have selected for to serve as the executor/trustee and if you should make changes to these designations. For people with minor children, do you have a guardian named for your children and do you want to make any changes? Also, review the distribution plan to see if it will work with your current goals and ideas or should you make some changes.
Balance Sheet and Assets. We don’t always think about balance sheets with estate plans, but they are a key component of good estate planning. One issue to address is net worth. Is your net worth less than the current $12.06 million/person estate tax exemption? Will your net worth be less than the exemption in 2026 when the exemption reverts to 2017 values (probably around $7 million per person*)? If you answer no to either of these questions, you should make an appointment with your attorney to address your net worth issue.
The other reason to review your balance sheet and assets is to try to make everything non-probate. All titled assets can be made non-probate through titling. Did you buy a new truck or trailer and forget to title it non-probate? Avoiding probate is relatively easy but it must be done prior to death. If you have any questions about probate, contact your attorney and review your assets with them.
If you get a chance before 2023 gets too busy, take an hour or two and review your estate plan. You might be surprised that you have forgotten some of the details of your plan. Having a good, up-to-date plan is important to make sure that you can pass along assets to your beneficiaries in the most efficient and practical way you can.
*Unless extended by Congress, the estate tax exemption will revert to the 2017 exemption amount which was $5 million. The amount is indexed for inflation so an exact number cannot be known for 2026 but a reasonable estimate is $7 million.