Michael Altshuler once said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” The New Year brings with it the opportunity to get your affairs in order. For many people, estate planning is placed on the back burner during our busy lives. However, estate planning does not have to be time consuming, expensive and depressing. To the contrary, estate planning can be efficient, affordable and empowering. Here are 10 quick “tips” for estate planning in 2022:
1. If your estate plan was executed prior to 2019, review and update it.
Estate Plans are not static. As our lives change our estate plan should evolve with us. New children, grandchildren, pets, relationships, businesses, wealth accumulation and other significant life changes can trigger the need to revisit your estate plan.
2. If you don’t have a Living Will, complete one.
During the pandemic, even younger people were reminded of the fragility of life. A Living Will or Health Care Proxy allows you to designate an individual to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. For example, if you are in a car accident or you fall ill, your Health Care Proxy can make important medical decisions on your behalf.
3. If you don’t have a durable Power of Attorney, complete one.
New York recently changed its Power of Attorney form. The new form is more difficult to execute because it requires two witnesses. However, the new form is also stronger because the law now penalizes people who wrongfully reject it. The durable Power of Attorney is important because it allows someone to manage your financial affairs (e.g. pay the bills) if you become incapacitated.
4. Review your beneficiary designations.
Some people execute an estate plan but forget to update their beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, bank accounts and investment accounts. As life circumstances change, these beneficiary designations should be reviewed. Some people may not understand that beneficiary designations trump bequests in a Last Will and Testament.
5. Review your personal property bequests.
If you do not have a Will and you have specific wishes with respect to your personal property, then in New York you need to create a Will to ensure that those wishes are carried out. If you already have a Will and you have accumulated valuable personal property (jewelry, art, motor vehicles or boats, for example) since you executed your will, then it may be prudent to update your Will to account for those specific items.
6. Protect your pets.
Many people care deeply for their pets and wish to ensure that they will be cared for after they are gone. Some basic estate planning can ensure that your dog, cat, horse, bird or other pet is cared for after you are gone.
7. Charitable gifts.
Some people wish to make charitable gifts as part of their estate plan. These gifts can be made to a college or university, religious institution, not-for-profit or other similar organization. An estate plan can provide the vehicle to ensure that the charitable gift is delivered.
8. Consider a revocable trust for out of state property.
For those who are fortunate to own more than one home, they may not realize that this can cause additional time and expense after they pass. To avoid ancillary probate in other states, a revocable trust may be warranted. An experienced trusts & estates attorney can counsel you on your options.
9. Protect your legacy.
If you die without a Will, State law will dictate how your assets will be distributed. In some cases, without the benefit of estate planning, your estate (i.e. your assets) will be subject to significant taxes. An experienced trusts & estates attorney can counsel you on your options for minimizing your tax liability and preserving your legacy.
10. Share information with your executor.
Most of us don’t like to think about our own mortality. Unfortunately, however, none of us will live forever. Consolidating important information such as appraisals, usernames and passwords for bank accounts, keys to safety deposit boxes, combinations to safes, insurance information and other important information in one safe place and sharing that with you trusted agent/executor can save your loved ones a great deal of anguish after you are gone.
For questions about trusts & estates, or general information about our firm, please contact us at (914) 338-8050 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Betensky Law PLLC
118 N. Bedford Road, Suite 302
Mount Kisco, New York 10549
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