Make A Quick List, Check It Twice

Wondering where to start as you consider creating an estate plan? Thinking through this short and sweet checklist will give you a solid foundation for your estate plan:

  • Beneficiaries: Who will get your assets when you pass away? Friends, family, charities?

  • Specific Gifts: Do you have any special items such as family heirlooms or jewelry that you would like certain individuals to receive after you pass away?

  • Trustee: Who will manage assets on behalf of your children if you pass away while they are young?

  • Executor: Who do you trust to distribute your assets as you have spelled out in your will?

  • Financial Representative (POA): Who should make decisions regarding your finances and other personal business if you become incapacitated?

  • Health Care Representative (POA): Who should make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated?

  • Living Will: If you are in a terminal state as determined by a physician and unable to make decisions on your own, would you like to receive life-prolonging care, or would you prefer to receive comfort care only?

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season to you and your family!

Holiday Conversation Starters

Looking for some reading material to pass the time as you travel this holiday season? Kiplinger’s comprehensive guide to estate planning provides a solid base of information for those thinking about creating or updating an estate plan. Consider discussing some key topics from Kiplinger’s guide with family and friends over the coming months:

  • Does your existing estate plan still makes sense given your present situation in life and the current climate of estate tax law?

  • Should you utilize a trust to handle asset distribution, protect your privacy, or avoid the probate process?

  • What type of information could you share with your family members regarding your estate plan to ease tension and establish expectations?

  • How should your assets be divided (equally or unequally) among your loved ones and when should those distributions be made?

  • Should you make lifetime gifts to decrease the amount of assets you hold at the time of your death and to take advantage of the annual gift tax exemption?

Safe travels, and happy planning!

New Year, New Tax Law

You have surely heard about the new tax legislation signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2017, but what does it mean for your estate plan?  Below are a few key changes to the tax law that can impact estate planning:

  • The annual federal gift tax exemption increases to $15,000 this year, to be adjusted for inflation each year thereafter.  This means that each individual can give up to $15,000 in gifts to as many individuals as they would like in 2018 without touching their lifetime exclusion amount.
  • The lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion amount increases to $11,200,000 for each individual as of January 1, 2018, and will increase with inflation each year through 2025.  This means that each individual can pass assets worth up to $11,200,000 during life and/or at death without incurring federal gift or estate taxes.
  • The lifetime exclusion amount is still portable, meaning a deceased individual's unused portion can be utilized by a spouse.  As such, the exclusion amount for a married couple for 2018 is effectively $22,400,000.
  • On January 1, 2026, the lifetime exclusion amount will drop back to the 2017 level ($5,490,000 adjusted for inflation) per individual.
  • The federal estate tax rate remains 40% for those who exceed the lifetime exclusion amount.


Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy 2018!

4 New Year's Resolutions For Married Couples

Whether you are planning a wedding this year, or you have been married for 50 years, this helpful article from A Practical Wedding outlines four major planning discussions you should have with your spouse.  Writing your wills, purchasing life insurance, preparing living wills, and documenting various aspects of life can go a long way toward making an unexpected situation much simpler for your spouse or other loved ones to manage.

Thank you for a wonderful 2016, and best wishes for a safe and happy 2017!

A Solid Estate Plan is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Looking for a last minute gift idea for your family and loved ones this holiday season?  How about putting together an effective estate plan to protect them in the future?  The gift of a solid estate plan can save your family and loved ones time, money, and headaches down the road.  It is important to put in the time now to make sure your affairs are in order as mistakes in your estate plan can have devastating consequences after your death.  A piece on the website Financial Planning highlights ten major celebrity estate planning mistakes to avoid:

  • Appointing an untrustworthy trustee or executor
  • Failing to clarify intent
  • Putting off estate planning until it is too late
  • Making verbal promises outside of the plan
  • Failing to fund a trust
  • Failing to make documents accessible to loved ones
  • Creating unenforceable documents
  • Failing to update estate planning documents after major life events
  • Creating "do it yourself" estate planning documents
  • Failure to establish an estate plan at all

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season and all the best in the new year!