Benjamin Franklin paraphrased Christopher Bullock when he wrote, “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Estate planning is the crossroads of those two things. Because of that, you may not want to think about it. But, if you set up your estate plan more than a few years ago, you should review it to make sure that it is up to date. Only lawyers can write the actual documents, but a tax professional can help you understand the tax consequences of your estate plan.
Why might you need to update your estate plan? If you are recently married, make sure you add your spouse to your estate planning documents. If you are divorced, make sure to remove your spouse from the plan. You may have named your former spouse as executor, trustee, or power of attorney. Make sure your documents reflect your current family situation.
If you have young children, make sure you have guardians named in a properly signed will, so that your wishes can be known for certain. In most circumstances, you can drop that provision for adult children. Have you made provisions for your pets? In most states, you can create a trust to ensure that your loyal friends are cared for after you’re gone.
Make room for charity. If you wish to leave a legacy with a cause you feel strongly about, your will is a great place to make a provision. Discuss it with me if you aren’t sure that your preferred charity qualifies for the charitable deduction.