The new year is our annual reminder to do the things we should have done in the previous year, as well as get ahead and make plans for the future. If you haven’t already done so, you should review your estate plan and set up a meeting with your estate planning attorney if you see any changes that need to be made.
Step 1: Update your documents. If this past year had you go through family or financial changes, you’ll want to address these in your estate planning documents. If, for example, you have a new child or grandchild, you’ll want to make sure you address this in your will.
Step 2: Review your estate in light of the tax implications. Federal estate tax exemptions and rates may change after 2012, though for now at least it appears the $5 million individual exemption is still in effect. The New York estate tax continues to apply to estates exceeding just $1 million in value. If you and your spouse have assets worth more than $1 million and haven’t already done so, you should consult an estate planning attorney to ensure your estate is as protected as possible.
Step 3: Speak to your family. Discussing your estate planning wishes with your family is especially important if you’ve made changes to your living will or health care proxy in the past year. Even if you haven’t made changes, you can discuss your own wishes and urge your family members to begin their own planning efforts. It’s never too soon to start, but it can very quickly become too late if you wait too long.