How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan?

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If I’ve heard this question once as an estate planning attorney, I’ve heard it a thousand times over the past 25 years.  “How often should I review my estate plan?”  You ask and I listen.  So, I thought I’d spend a few minutes answering this question today.

 

Most financial experts and estate planning attorneys seem to agree that you should review your estate plan every three to five years, at the very least.  If you’re the type of person who likes to create ticklers/reminders so important things don’t fall through the cracks, that’s a decent setting.  If you’re more interested in making sure that your family and assets are well protected, I highly recommend that you review your estate plan each and every year.  It’s the safest way to make sure that any significant changes that have occurred are addressed by a professional.

 

What exactly would fall under the umbrella as “significant changes, “ for families in California you might ask?  Great question.  Since I’m personally all about creating “Legacies of Love” for the families I work with, I feel that you should first consider your home front.  You could begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Did anyone in the family pass on?
  • On a happier note, did anyone retire?
  • Was there a divorce in the family?
  • Did we move to another state? (estate planning laws vary from state to state)
  • Did we, or our children, adopt a child?
  • Did our child(ren) leave the nest and go off to college?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, certain aspects of your estate plan may be obsolete.  You need to sit down with your estate planning attorney immediately to review your estate plan and make certain your legacy is safe and secure.

 

It’s also important that you consider changes in your finances that can impact your estate plan.  Here, you might ask:

  • Did we receive an inheritance?
  • Did we or sell a business?

 

Lastly, it’s critical that you remember that any change in state law and state and federal estate taxes can (and often do) impact your estate plan.  At the moment, no one is sure about what the “Super Committee” will tackle since they’ve got a full plate.  However, the word on the street is that they plan to change tax law sooner rather than later.  Existing laws are presently in place until 2013, at which time things will revert back to the old law where families get a $1Million exemption for estate and gift tax rather than $5Million (for a lifetime).  A rumored “Gift Tax” reduction has been brewing.  I should know more by the end of November.  I’ll keep you posted.  If you have considered giving a gift, now is the time to do it – to be on the safe side!

 

Bottom line, changes in the law and the impact they can have on you and your family are far too complicated for you to understand.  That is why it’s extremely important that you review your estate plan with a good estate planning attorney every year ideally, or every three to five years on average.  For those of you who work with me, you already know how strongly I feel about taking good care of you – so you can expect to get my annual letter which reminds you to review your estate plan at the beginning of 2012.  If you can say yes to any of the questions I mentioned above, don’t wait until then.  Contact me immediately at (408) 741-3500.  I can help, and I’m just a phone call away.

 

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