The rain season is here, officially since Sunday! Miami has been showered (well needed). April is almost over. That means that a quarter of the year is almost up. Have you cleaned up that closet? Did you organize the pantry and remove all expired items? Have you had an estate plan checkup this year?
You may or may not have an estate plan at this moment, but it is seriously a good time for an Estate Plan Checkup!
Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your Spring Clean-Up. What are you cleaning up with a plan in place? You are cleaning up worries and bringing some peace of mind to your life.
Why? Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated, and your property and your loved ones may end up in probate court after you die.
Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to put in writing who and what will receive your inheritance, then the state where you live at the time of your death will essentially decide it for you. It is often very likely that the plan of that state will be different to what you had in mind.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only necessary for wealthy people or for when you die. But this simply isn’t true – anyone with a bank or a retirement account, a home, or a family needs to have a plan, so their family and their assets are managed and protected in the event of an incapacity and are properly transferred to who you want if you die.
Keep in mind that the complexity of a plan will vary depending on your circumstances, but even if you think you need a “simple” plan, at the least, inform yourself with an attorney experienced with the legal formalities of estate planning. It may sound simple, but there is a reason other attorneys hire an estate planning attorney to do their plans.
How Old is Your Estate Plan?
You already have a plan in place?
Great. Go ahead and pull your documents out of the drawer, dust them off, and look at the date you signed them.
Were your documents signed in the 80s or 90s, or, worse yet, before 1980? Then please run, don’t walk, to an estate planning attorney, because your documents are terribly out of date and need to be brought into the new millennium as soon as possible.
Did you sign your documents in the 2000s? Well, they can be almost 20 years old and many things have changed in the law through these years. Aside from the federal estate tax exemption jumping from $675,000 to $11 million this year, state estate taxes have disappeared in many states. There have been changes to gift taxes, generation-skipping transfer taxes, and “portability” of the federal estate tax exemption between married couples was introduced, and more.
Even if you did your plan in the last two years, it is safer to do a Clean-up. So, dust that package off and take it to an attorney to review. You should not let your documents sit there for longer than three years without a review. Especially so if you have a new account, a new home, sold or bought a property, have a new child or grandchild or even a new dog, moved to a new state, got married or divorced, sell a business or bought one, retire or won the lottery!? Any major change in your life shall be a reason to review your estate plan.
It does not mean you will re-do the plan every three years. Many times and I speak from experience, clients coming to my office for a review do not need any changes. However, some do. You should err on the side of caution and make sure your plan always works – that’s the main goal after all! If you are our prior client, we review your documents every three years at no additional charge! If you are not our prior client, give us a call and find out if you qualify for a free review.
Estate Planning is Not a One Shot Deal
Estate planning is not a time even that you do and then forget about it. On the contrary, estate planning is a continuous process, because life is always changing, and so should your estate plan change with the rhythm of your life.
Yahima Suarez, J.D.
Yahima Suarez, PA