Planning for the Future


Spring Cleaning for Estates

Spring cleaning is a concept that might be applied to many aspects of a person’s personal or professional life.  Estate planning, for example, deserves everyone’s attention at least once a year.  Here are some ideas to consider:

Dust off your will — When was the last time you reviewed your will?  Changes in your life may affect your will.  Events that should alert you that your will needs updating include: (1) marriage, (2) divorce, (3) birth of a child or grandchild, (4) death of a spouse or beneficiary, (5) increase in your assets (receipt of an inheritance, for example), (6) relocation to a new state or (7) unavailability of the persons you named as executor or trustee.

Consider the ups and downs of the stock market.  To ensure that your gifts are carried out in accordance with your wishes, it may make sense to leave a percentage of your estate rather than a specific dollar amount.

Straighten up your life insurance — Just as your income, assets and family situation change over the years, so do your life insurance needs.  Do you have too much insurance?  Too little?  Should you buy different kinds of policies?  Buy term insurance?  Convert to annuities?  The specific answers depend on your unique situation.  Don’t neglect your life insurance policies when reviewing your estate.  If you find you have life insurance that you no longer need for family security, consider a gift of the policy to charity.

Take inventory of your financial worth — Although only about .05% of estates will be subject to the federal estate tax (those in excess of $11.2 million in 2018), many may be subject to state estate or inheritance taxes.  You probably own assets that will be subject to income tax in your estate or in the hands of your beneficiaries (U.S. savings bonds, retirement accounts, annuities).  If these assets are left to charity, all income tax can be avoided.

Improve your tax awareness — Tax, estate and financial planning are becoming increasingly complex and demanding.  Familiarize yourself with the relevant issues and concepts.  Sign up for an estate planning seminar.

Plant some seeds to benefit future generations by adding a gift in a will or trust to benefit charity — Remember that gifts from your estate can continue to support the programs to which you contributed during your lifetime.