Time to Re-emphasize the Basics

With all the worrying you’ve been doing about the economy, the stock market, and shrinking investments, have you given any thought to how your existing estate plan may be affected by all of this? The New York Times has. And what they’ve found is hopeful. Although estates may be smaller, there’s now more room for flexibility, and if you play your cards right, more of your estate will end up going to your heirs rather than to the government.

So what does it mean to play your cards right?

  1. Be specific about the distribution of your estate. Questions about your estate will inevitably lead to fights between family members. Being clear in your will or trust means fewer questions and fewer fights.
  2. With the stock market so volatile build flexibility into your estate plan. A revocable trust as opposed to an irrevocable trust will give your executor more flexibility to manage assets when they need to be managed.
  3. Reasses (and possibly re-title) how you hold your assets and take advantage of the latest exemption ($3.5 million per person, $7 million for couples.)
  4. Make gifts now, rather than after you’re gone. “To give a child $1 million while you’re alive (if the exemption is gone), it would cost you $1,450,000. But if you wanted to will $1 million to an heir, you would have to give $1,820,000.”

But the first thing you have to do is dust off your existing estate plan and take it to your attorney for review. It’s time to reassess, revise, and take control again.