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5 Estate Planning Tips For 2019

With a new year comes new opportunities in many areas of life. Estate planning should be one of them. Your estate plan is an essential part of preparing for the future and it can have a significant impact on your family’s financial situation for generations to come. In addition, certain estate planning tools and techniques can have a significant impact on your tax liability immediately. Here are five estate planning tips to consider for 2019.

 

If You Haven’t Started Your Estate Plan, Now is The Time

 

A 2017 survey conducting by Caring.com indicated that less than half of adults in the United States have estate planning documents in place. Talking and thinking about end-of-life planning can be uncomfortable and scary, but the reality is that we all need to do it at some point. In addition, when you start thinking about estate planning early, it will make it easier to strategize in the future as you accumulate more assets and wealth.

Review Your Will

If you already have a will, congratulations! You’re ahead of more than half of the people in the country. It’s important to remember, however, that estate planning is not a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing process that requires making sure that your plan reflects your current wishes and financial situation. While you should review your will at least every five years, there are certain events that should trigger a review regardless of when the last review occurred. These include the following:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The birth of a child or grandchild
  • A windfall
  • A significant financial loss
  • The loss of a spouse

Consider Creating a Trust

For many people, the word “trust” conjures images of Vanderbilt and Rockefeller descendants living lives of leisure while they draw substantial income from their family trust. In reality, anyone can create a trust, and there are significant estate planning advantages to doing so. You can use a trust to pass assets to your heirs and other beneficiaries just like you could with a will, but assets passed through a trust do not need to go through probate, which can be costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, probate opens up your financial affairs to the public at large, so using a trust to transfer assets provides privacy.

Take Advantage of the Current Tax Breaks

2017 saw the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which has provided some significant tax cuts that individuals can take advantage of in 2019. These include a temporary doubled lifetime exclusion for the gift and estate tax (which will be even higher in 2019 due to inflation adjustments), temporary exemptions from the generation-skipping transfer tax, higher annual gift limits, and charitable contribution deductions. To determine if you can take advantage of any of these tax benefits, you should speak to an experienced estate planning attorney.

Sit Down with an Attorney for a Comprehensive Review of Your Estate Plan

Finally, it’s important to remember that estate planning is a complicated legal endeavor and that it’s highly advisable to develop a comprehensive estate plan with the assistance of an experienced attorney. While it may be tempting to use your favorite online legal do-it-yourself service to save a few dollars, it’s important to remember that any mistakes you make could have a significant impact on you and your family’s financial future.

For example, while an online legal document service may assure you that you can create a will in “Just Three Easy Steps,” every state has its own laws regarding the formalities that are required to create a valid will. If you fail to follow any of these formalities, there’s a strong chance that a court will declare your will invalid during probate, and that your entire estate will be distributed according to your state’s laws of intestate succession. These laws often distribute assets proportionally to an heir’s degree of relation to the decedent and will probably not reflect your wishes for the distribution of your estate.

Not only will meeting with an attorney ensure that your estate planning documents are in order it will also help you identify your goals and ensure that your assets are protected and transferred in the most efficient way possible.

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