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Is Your Estate Plan Due For a Check-Up?

9 April 2024

When I meet with new clients, an estate plan is one of the things I talk with them about. Many don’t have one at all – and I can help them design one that fits their individual needs and objectives – their families, their businesses, their goals, are all unique.

Others tell me they did their estate planning years earlier and are done.

But, are they?

Do you have a complete physical at 25, and think you don’t need further check-ups from your doctor? Of course you don’t, because your health, your body, your mind, aren’t static – they change. And you know you need to get an updated health status on a regular basis.

Your estate – and your plans for it, your goals, your life situation – changes over time, too. And regular check-ups for your estate plan – and your goals for estate planning – are as essential as your annual doctor’s visits.

Why? Well, for several reasons:

Your Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries We set beneficiaries for our life and disability insurance policies and retirement accounts via beneficiary designation forms attached to each policy and retirement account.

We structure trusts, often, based on present reality and current priorities.

But life happens, and our realities, priorities, and estate planning objectives can change. Since you made out your will, since you set your beneficiary designations, since you set up your trust (and other legal documents necessary to your estate planning):

  • Have you had another child? More than one, perhaps?
  • Has one (or more) of your children married?
  • Have you had grandchildren?
  • Have you divorced?
  • If so, have you remarried?
  • Have you lost a family member or close friend?
  • Have you gained a new close friend you want to remember in your estate?

Your Charitable Giving

Charitable GivingIt’s not uncommon for those who’ve amassed wealth to specify charitable gifts in your estate plans – whether in your will or via one of the various types of charitable trusts available.

Have you become involved with or impressed by another charity, one you weren’t aware of when you initially planned for your estate, and want to include a gift to that organization?

If you had only a single charity remembered in your will, but now want to leave some of your assets to more than that one charity, maybe you should consider setting up one or more charitable trusts.

Your Goals For Your Family Members

Your Goals For Your GamilyDo you want to prioritize education for your children or grandchildren?

You can set assets aside specifically to defray educational costs for your minor children or your grandchildren.

Do you want to promote entrepreneurship in your children? Do you own a business? Consider taking them into that business.

Or you can set aside assets to help them start their own entrepreneurial journey(s)!

Do you want to ensure your real estate assets go to the family members you feel need, or will appreciate them most? You may want to set up a family real estate partnership to start giving a percentage of the value of the partnership to certain heirs.

Asset Values

AssetsWhen you drafted your will, set up your trust(s), designated your various beneficiaries, the portions for each heir in your estate plan may have been exactly what you wanted for them.

But are they now? Asset values fluctuate – some rise fast, some fall fast, some grow or decline more slowly, and your estate planning needs to be ongoing to keep up with your financial assets.

It may also be time to reallocate some of your assets, to keep your estate and your plan for it healthy.

Coming Changes in Estate Tax Law

Tax Law ChangesOne such change is likely to come soon – as of January 1, 2026, without Congressional action in the interim, the increased estate and gift exemption enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TJCA) will sunset, and the exemption will plummet from the 2025 limits (for 2024 the limit is $13,610,000 per individual) to an estimated $7 million – the previous limit of $5.6 million adjusted for inflation.

One of the most significant reasons to plan carefully is to minimize your estate taxes.

If you’ve amassed significant wealth, and have a longer life expectancy than two years, you may want to consider gifting, or setting up a trust, or trusts, as part of your estate planning, before the law is expected to change.

This will not affect your estate’s federal income taxes! If you make gifts up to the maximum exemption – and, if you’re married, the combined 2024 exemption is $27,220,000 – that is perfectly proper within the law as it stands. The IRS explicitly understands this, and the assets given away will not be subject to estate tax when the exemption drops (assuming it does).

When you evaluate your estate planning, take into account the estate laws and imposed taxes, if any, in your state of residence as these vary, and can also change.

Your estate planning objectives should include ensuring that as much of your wealth as possible goes to the people you want to leave it to, and as little as possible sticks to governmental fingers. In short, to minimize estate taxes.

To ensure this, you need to keep abreast of developments, changes, fluctuations – within your family, in your family relationships, your business, in your goals, in your asset valuations, and in the law when making and revisiting your estate plans.

Your Business

Exit StrategyIf you are a business owner, you know that businesses change over time. Perhaps you’ve added additional products or service lines.

Do you have the necessary legal document(s) in place to ensure a smooth transition to new management team or a new owner?

What Doesn’t Change

One of the best reasons to devise and implement an estate plan is so that your spouse, children and other family members won’t have to deal with a tangle of money matters while they process their enormous grief.

Save them from this outcome by ensuring you estate planning remains up to date – and this means regular check-ups!

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so plan today.

Your Estate Plan Check-Up

Estate Plan Check-upConsider your CPA or virtual CFO as the primary care physician for your estate planning goals. Consult with him or her about your estate plan regularly.

Consulting with your estate attorney is also highly advisable.

If you would like an estate planning check-up, please provide us with the following information:

  • Your will, and your spouse’s too, if applicable
  • All powers of attorney – medical, durable, and/or springing
  • All in-force insurance policies (life and disability) and their beneficiary designations
  • Most recent statements of all retirement accounts and their beneficiary designations
  • Most recent statements of all investment accounts
  • List of all real estate you own, with current estimated fair market values
  • Home and other real estate insurance policies with specific lists of all personal property covered
  • List of automobiles you and your family own, with the year(s) of manufacture as well as make and model(s)

If you think your estate plans might need updating in order to best protect your family, your assets, and your legacy, please click here to email us directly – we are always here to help.

Until next time –



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