As an estate planning attorney, I make every effort to remind my clients to keep their estate plans current. My general rule of thumb is to have your estate plan reviewed every four years, or, any time there is a significant life change (i.e. divorce, remarriage, change in intended beneficiary, etc.). Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have received numerous calls from clients asking us to review their documents to make sure that their estate plan reflects their current life circumstances and wishes. While no situation is exactly alike, many of the inquiries have centered around similar themes.
Some of the questions we've been hearing are:
- Do you have my original Will?
- Can you remind me whom I’ve named as my executor, trustee and/or guardian of my minor children?
- What happens to my estate if something happens to both my spouse and me?
- Whom did I name as my health care agent in case I can’t make health care decisions for myself?
- What does my advance medical directive say in the case I was diagnosed with COVID-19?
- Whom did I designate as my power of attorney in the event that I can no longer handle my financial affairs?
- What, if anything, should I be doing to take advantage of my increased estate and gift tax exemption amount?
- Are my assets properly titled to ensure that my intentions are carried out?
- Who did I name as the beneficiary of my IRA or other retirement accounts and did the passage of the SECURE Act change anything?
- Should I be considering additional asset protection planning given the current financial situation of my business and and the current pandemic? If so, what should I do?
Our first step is to update your personal information by asking questions like:
- Has there been a change in your marital status or that of your children or any named beneficiary?
- Has there been an addition to your family through birth, adoption or marriage?
- Have any family members died or become severely ill or incapacitated?
- Have you received or do you expect to receive a significant gift or inheritance?
- Have you made any substantial gifts or charitable donations?
- Have you become involved in any new business ventures or purchased a substantial interest in an existing business?
- Have your financial circumstances changed significantly, for the better, hopefully, but also for the worse?
- Have you moved and/or do you have any plans to relocate?
- Have any of your objectives (tax or non-tax) changed since we last spoke?
The dialogue that ensues as a result of the questions asked often serves to put the client’s mind at ease and enables the attorney to ensure that the client’s current needs and objectives are met.
The Bottom Line
At Altman & Associates, we want you to view estate planning as a process, not a product. Having an outdated or improperly prepared estate plan is as dangerous as having no estate plan at all. Please contact us to discuss having your estate plan reviewed and updated accordingly!