Marty Shenkman, an estate planning attorney and author of 42 books and 1,200 articles on the subject, recently published an article in Forbes with his New Year’s Resolutions. It just goes to show, all professionals suffer from the cobbler’s children proverb, and there is always something to be checked off the list. While estate planning needs are unique, Marty’s list serves as an excellent guideline for things to pay attention to this year.
- Inform and Involve your heirs—and yourself. Many people put together provisions for their estates and then lock them away for years. The thing is, circumstances may change, and laws definitely change. Meet with your team: your CPA, insurance agent, estate planning attorney, banker. If you don’t have a team, assemble one. Get familiar with your assets and your plan, and make sure your heirs are familiar with them too.
- Secure Your Financial Information. Whether it’s purchasing RFID sleeves for your credit cards and passport (you can get 14 sleeves + 4 passport protectors on Amazon for $10) or encrypting your laptop, identity theft is on the rise. 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft with $16.8 billion stolen in 2017 alone. If you wait until it happens to you, it will be too late. While you’re at it, beef up your passwords. Our article Password Protection-Avoid Being a Victim of Data Hacks! will give you some tips for strong passwords. Refer to Resolution #1: meet with your insurance agent to review your policy. If your identity is stolen, your insurance may cover damages as well as provide a representative to clear up your credit.
- Put Your Documents in the Cloud. When you need your important documents, for example a health care proxy, you may not have time to hunt for them among your paperwork or make a trip to your safe deposit box during banking hours. Putting your documents in a cloud-based vault gives you built-in security and backup, immediate access, and a centralized location for easy access by you, your family, and your fiduciaries.
- Refresh Your Trusts. Laws change frequently, plus they vary from state to state. If your trusts are all in your home state you may not be benefiting from the most favorable income tax breaks or asset protection laws. At the same time, review your trustees and meet with your estate planning attorney to make sure your trusts are doing their best for you, and ask about using your exemption amount. The 2020 election results could affect estate taxes.
- Create a Budget and Financial Forecast. No matter where you are in your financial planning, it will benefit you to stay on track. You’ll want to forecast for a long life to make sure you have what you need to live comfortably. If you have already met your goals, you can shelter your assets from taxes and receive tax benefits by giving to family and charities and using trusts.
Keep in mind, planning is a process. Circumstances change. Laws change. Finances change. Making a resolution to stay current will benefit you and your loved ones down the road.