How often should I update my estate plan?
Less than half of all Americans today have an estate plan, according to the most recent Gallup poll data. If you already have an estate plan, congratulations! You have taken an important step towards protecting your family and your future. You are ahead of the curve. However, your estate planning cannot end there. You should review your estate plan regularly. For some people, this means every year, while others may wait and review it every three years or after a major life event. As you review your estate plan, you will want to look for ways in which it could be improved upon. Changing laws and alterations within your own life may mean there is room to update your estate plan to better serve your needs.
Update Your Beneficiary Designations
There are many assets that can pass to your named loved one directly, without the need for probate, through a beneficiary designation. These assets often include bank accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, and life insurance. You should take advantage of the ease with which these assets can transfer to your loved ones by filling out the beneficiary designation and keeping it up to date. If you have recently divorced or remarried, you will want to update your beneficiary designation. Now is the time to make these changes to avoid any complexities in the event of your death.
Consider Adding a Trust to Your Estate Plan
If you already have a will and powers of attorney in place, you might want to consider improving your estate plan with the addition of a trust. A trust can better protect your assets from taxation and delays in the transfer of assets to your loved ones. With a trust, your assets will pass without the need for probate. There are many types of trusts, all with different benefits and drawbacks. Consult with your estate planning lawyer for more information on incorporating a trust into your estate plan.
Incorporate Gifting and Charitable Giving
You can make your estate plan more comprehensive by incorporating gifting or charitable giving during your lifetime and beyond. Each year, you are allowed to gift up to $15,00 to as many people as you want tax-free. Gifting is an excellent way to reduce your taxable estate while providing for those you love. Similarly, giving to charity offers a great way to give back while reducing your taxes. Your estate planning attorney can better guide you towards the creation of an optimal estate plan.