New Year Resolutions for your Estate Plan

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By Kimberly Napolitano

As we ring in the new year, we often set resolutions for our fitness, finances, and other personal goals.  The new year can also be an ideal time to reflect on your estate plan.  It’s time to stretch out those old and seldom used muscles and see how strong your estate plan really is.

Everyone needs an estate plan.  Whether it is setting up beneficiaries on accounts, changing title to assets, or setting up a living trust for more comprehensive planning, everyone needs to consider what would happen to their assets and debts if they were incapacitated or died.  And for those of you who have “already taken care of that,” be mindful that changes in your financial or family circumstances, as well as changes in the law, can create the need to update your estate plan.

Get organized.  Among our many resolutions, likely all of us could aim to be more organized.  This includes organizing your financial and personal information in conjunction with your estate plan.  Have you organized statements on all of your accounts?  Have you considered how those that survive you will discover accounts for which you only receive online statements?  Have you considered how those that survive you will know what life insurance policy you’ve been paying on all these years?  You need to carefully review the answers to these questions and determine if you are leaving your spouse, children, and/or friends in a position to transition your affairs if you are not able to do so yourself.

Talk with your elders.  One of the most common issues we face is dealing with adult children who are administering their parents’ estates after they pass.  Two common situations occur:  (1) there was no trust or (2) the trust was not properly funded.  Does this situation create a nightmare for your parents?  No!  Unfortunately, it is people like you, the children or other surviving family members, who are left to deal with the probate of the assets, as well as the delays, hassle and expense that can be required before receiving your inheritance.  We cannot emphasize enough how helpful it would be if the family were working together on these issues before a death occurs to streamline the administration of the estate.

Peace of Mind.  Whether it’s your children that need a named guardian, your pet that would need a new home, or funding your children or grandchildren’s education, creating an estate plan gives you peace of mind that you have a plan in place.  Working with an experienced attorney, you can create an estate plan that meets your unique needs and family situation.

Give yourself this gift.  Your holiday gifts are unwrapped and decorations stored for next year.  But there is still time to give yourself this final gift this new year.  Sit down, reflect and contemplate all that you have worked for and what should happen if you could no longer call the shots.  Once you put your plan into effect, you can enjoy a gift to yourself:  no longer needing to worry about the “what ifs” with regard to your estate plan.  It would certainly be a great way to start the new year.

Kimberly Napolitano, concentrates on the representation of individuals and families in all aspects of estate planning, business succession, asset protection, and the reduction of tax burdens.

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