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For the past 20 years, I have gone to the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. Originally in Miami Beach, it moved to Orlando 10 years ago. This is the biggest gathering of estate planning professionals each year. Over the course of 5 days, there are numerous presentations about what is new on estate planning.
This year, the biggest theme seems to be "going back to basics". My interpretation of this is that estate planners should be giving as much focus to a client's goals and desires (and ensuring that they are properly reflected in their documents), as they are with the mechanics of the estate plan. How can we take the provisions that clients typically don't read or care about and customize them, making them more meaningful?
The other big take-away this week is that while estate taxes may not be applicable for many clients and "portability" is now an option, many decisions and choices are more complex than ever before. Not only do we have to worry about estate taxes, but we also now have to consider income taxes, basis issues, relationships among heirs and children, second marriage concerns, etc. This can really complicate the planning, making plan reviews especially critical.
You've heard me say this before - estate planning is a process, not a product. In other words, do not take your estate plan and put it on a shelf and forget about it. There have been countless law changes in the past 24 months. It needs to be reviewed periodically (at least every four years and sooner if there is a significant life change) and updated accordingly.