With the arrival of spring, many set their sights on spring cleaning. While you may already be elbow deep in cleaning out your home’s closets and storage areas, now is also a good time to dust off your estate plan and ensure it’s in order.
Here are the most important tasks at hand:
Review Your Current Estate
How old is your plan? Have circumstances within your family changed? Was your trust drafted when your children were minors and they are now in their 30s? There may be a reason to revisit provisions now that children have matured, grandchildren have been born, etc.
Revise Outdated Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives
How current are your ancillary documents such as powers of attorney and health care directives? Are your named agents still appropriate? The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging suggests that you reexamine your health care wishes whenever any of the following “five d’s” occur:
- Decade: When you start a new decade of your life.
- Death: When you experience the death of a loved one.
- Divorce: When you experience a divorce or other major family change. (In many states, a divorce automatically revokes the authority of a spouse who had been named as an agent.)
- Diagnosis: When you are diagnosed with a serious medical problem.
- Decline: When you experience a significant decline or deterioration from an existing health condition, especially when it diminishes your ability to live independently.
Look to Implement New Estate Planning Strategies
If you have a larger estate, consider implementing new estate planning strategies as part of your overall estate plan. Your estate planning strategy should be customized based upon your particular assets, lifestyle needs and goals.
Review Assets in Existing (Grantor) Trusts
For those who have already done advanced estate planning, now is also a good time to revisit executed trusts, particularly if you have a grantor trust as part of your plan.
Review Your Retirement Assets and Talk with Advisors About the SECURE Act
Signed in late 2019, the SECURE Act made various changes to retirement benefits, 529 plans and the “kiddie tax.” Most importantly for estate planning, the SECURE Act substantially limits “stretch” planning for distributions from IRAs following the death of the owner of the IRA.
Make Sure Your Trusts are Funded
Many individuals succeed in creating a trust, only to fail to properly “fund” the trust. Funding a trust is the process of transferring your ownership of the assets to your trust. As you purchase new assets, such as real estate, or open up a new financial account, proper attention to titling is critical.
Resolve to Administer Your Estate Properly
Resolve to dust off your plan and review the administration each year with your advisors. The best plans are of little use if not administered properly. The same should be done with entities that may be part of your estate plan, which may require corporate filings, state payments, formalities such as minutes, etc.
Review all Fiduciary and Non-Fiduciary Positions Contained in Your Documents
Lastly, now is a good time to consider the individuals and institutions you may have in place as part of your estate plan. There’s no time like the present to comprehensively review your estate planning matters with your attorney and advisors, and set yourself up for the future.
For more information about Whittier Trust, please contact Tom Frank at (415) 283-1846.
Author S. Victoria Kahn, JD, LLM, TEP, leads The Whittier Trust Company of Nevada Inc.’s Reno, Nevada office, serving as its executive vice president.