2023 Top 10 Reasons to Review your Estate Plan this Holiday Season

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2023 Top 10 Reasons to Review your Estate Plan this Holiday Season

1. Ensure your assets are properly titled in the name of your trust and that your beneficiary designations are consistent with your estate plan.

Proper titling is the foundation of a successful estate plan, helping to avoid the costly, challenging, and time-consuming process of probate. Verify that real estate, bank accounts, and other significant assets are correctly aligned with your trust to ensure a seamless transition of your estate to your intended beneficiaries. It’s a small but crucial detail that can make the inheritance process much simpler and more efficient. 

In addition, it’s essential to ensure your beneficiary designations are consistent with your estate plan. Life is dynamic, and family circumstances change. Confirm that the individuals you’ve designated to receive your assets upon your passing still reflect your intended wishes. Depending on your plan and your family circumstances, the proper beneficiaries may be your trust or charities instead of individual persons.  

2. Are your successor trustees and executors the people that you want to help you if you are incapacitated or deceased?

Are your successor trustees and executors the right people to assist you in times of incapacity or manage your affairs after you’re gone? The individuals you choose for these roles should be not only utterly trustworthy but also capable of navigating complex financial and legal matters. 

Take a moment to assess whether these designees are still the most suitable candidates, considering any changes in their circumstances or yours. Ensuring that your chosen representatives align with your current preferences provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones. 

3. Has anything changed in your family situation where you need to consider changing your beneficiaries or the manner in which your beneficiaries are receiving their inheritance? 

Has anything changed in your family situation where you need to consider changing your beneficiaries or how they will receive their inheritance? Family dynamics can evolve over time, and it’s essential to assess whether recent changes require adjustments to your estate plan. Births, marriages, divorces, or other significant life events may prompt the need for reconsideration. Ensure that your beneficiaries and the method of inheritance distribution fit your current wishes and family circumstances, providing a thoughtful and accurate reflection of your intentions. 

4. How long ago did you sign your durable power of attorney for assets?

A durable power of attorney is a crucial document that grants someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Laws and personal circumstances change, so it’s wise to review the date of your document periodically. 

If much time has passed since you last signed it, consider updating to ensure it complies with current regulations and effectively safeguards your financial interests in unforeseen circumstances. 

5. Consider who will receive your assets in the event of your passing, including scenarios where all named beneficiaries have also passed away. 

While we often focus on primary beneficiaries, it’s equally important to plan for contingencies. Review the provisions for secondary beneficiaries or contingent beneficiaries in your estate plan. Ensure that your assets have clear paths of distribution even if your primary beneficiaries are no longer available. This precautionary step provides added security and ensures your estate is distributed according to your wishes under various scenarios. 

6. Do you need to make annual exclusion gifts to transfer money from your estate to your beneficiaries tax-free? 

An annual exclusion gift is a powerful way to reduce the size of your taxable estate while providing financial support to your loved ones. Assess whether utilizing this strategy aligns with your overall estate planning goals.  

Gifting within the annual exclusion limit allows you to pass on assets to beneficiaries without incurring gift taxes. It’s a thoughtful and tax-efficient way to share your wealth during your lifetime, providing financial benefits to your loved ones while minimizing potential tax liabilities. 

7. Should you consolidate your assets at one financial institution for the convenience of your beneficiaries and fiduciaries after your passing?

Managing assets scattered across multiple financial institutions can be burdensome for your beneficiaries and fiduciaries. Consider simplifying the administration of your estate by consolidation. Bringing your assets together in one place not only streamlines the distribution process but also ensures a comprehensive view of your financial portfolio. This practical step can reduce stress for your loved ones during an already challenging time and contribute to a smoother transition of your assets.  

8. Consider how your incapacity is determined and whether that makes sense. 

Planning for the possibility of incapacity is a crucial aspect of estate planning. Review the criteria and mechanisms in place to determine your incapacity. Ensure that they align with your preferences and circumstances. Whether it involves medical assessments, legal evaluations, or a combination of factors, the determination of incapacity should be clear and reflect your wishes. 

Regularly reassessing and updating these provisions helps ensure that your chosen decision-makers can act in your best interests during periods of incapacity, providing you with the care and support you desire. 

9. Do you need to leave specific instructions regarding the care of a minor or disabled child or a pet? 

Planning for the well-being of dependents, whether they are your minor or disabled loved ones or a treasured family pet, requires careful consideration. For minor or disabled children, designate guardians and provide clear and detailed guidance regarding your expectations for their upbringing, education, and financial support. 

If you have pets, it’s helpful to outline detailed instructions for their care, covering everything from daily routines to long-term arrangements. 

Taking the time to address these specifics ensures that those you care about, including your furry friends, will be well-cared-for according to your wishes. 

10. Do you want to create a list designating who should receive particular personal items upon your passing?  

Beyond financial assets, personal belongings often hold sentimental value and can become a source of contention if not properly addressed in your estate plan. Creating a detailed list of who should receive specific items of special personal property can help prevent misunderstandings and family disputes.  

Whether it’s heirlooms, artwork, or cherished possessions, clearly outlining your intentions ensures that each item finds a meaningful home. This thoughtful step not only honors your legacy but also fosters harmony among your loved ones during an emotional time.  

As you reflect on these considerations, remember that a comprehensive estate plan is a reflection of your personal values and priorities. If you have any questions or need help in addressing these issues, please feel free to reach out; I’m here to help. The entire Beach Cities Estate Law team wishes you a holiday season filled with warmth, thoughtful planning, and the peace of mind that comes with a well-prepared estate plan.

Contact Angela

Please fill out our online form or call 424.336.1579 to arrange a meeting with Angela, or arrange a complimentary Discovery Call. Your family’s security is worth the effort, and Beach Cities Estate Law is here to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning with confidence. We assist individuals and families across southern California, especially the Beach Cities communities of El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and our office in Torrance.

We look forward to working with you!

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