As the new year begins, and rather than wait for a life event to happen when you wish you had looked at your estate plan, now is a great time to review your current financial and estate plans. Even your plan that is just a few years old may be outdated, and so it may be time for an update.
For example, you may start planning for any gifts you wish to make in 2019. An individual now can give up to $15,000 to each recipient, without any limit on number of gifts; a married couple can combine that gift, which allows up to $30,000 to each recipient. Of note, there is a lifetime limit on tax-exempt gifting of $11.2 Million per person (or for married couples, of $22.4 Million). Notably, these changes in the tax law were the largest tax reform in decades, and this change doubled the exemptions that were previously in effect.
Some gifts may even be gift-tax exempt, such as donations to charities, educational institutions for tuition, or health care providers to pay for another’s care.
In reviewing your own existing estate planning documents, you may consider making other changes other than gifting. In that instance, your plan may benefit from an update. For example, if your estate plan was created when the exemption was $1 Million, and you had planned originally to give away certain assets to get under the estate tax exemption at this much lower amount, this may no longer be necessary under the new tax laws.
You may also consider further changes to your estate planning documents, such as if your net worth has changed substantially since your last update to your estate plan, increased or decreased significantly, or even if you have collected personal property or family heirlooms, it may be a good time to review and update your plan.
Another instance in which you might consider evaluating your current estate plan may be if you get married or divorced, if you have experienced serious healthcare issues, if you have had any lifetime milestones such as if you become a parent or grandparent, or if your children become adults. Consider whether there are new beneficiaries to be included on your estate plan, and also your relationships with your currently-nominated fiduciaries. Some of these considerations may not apply just to your traditional estate planning documents, but you may even consider reviewing your beneficiary designations to things like bank accounts and life insurance, just to name a couple.
Make one of your New Year’s resolutions be to review your current estate plan with an experienced estate and trust planning attorney and consider whether you should make any updates and changes this year.