Estate Plan on Your 2022 Resolution List?
At the start of the new year, it is common to think ahead about the various things we need to accomplish in the next 12 months in order to take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and the things we care about. I know my list contains things like renewing passports for me and my kids (a girl can dream!), getting the generator serviced, and scheduling a physical. (Isn’t adulthood fun?!)
Whether or not you currently have estate planning documents, one important item to add to your 2022 is getting an estate plan checkup.
Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your to-do list.
Why? Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised proceeding if you become incapacitated, and your property and your loved ones may end up in a time-consuming and expensive probate proceedingsafter you die.
Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to have any estate planning done, then the State of Maine will essentially write one for you. It most likely won’t divvy up your property the way you would have and certainly will not protect you or your heirs the way you would.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only necessary for wealthy people. But this simply isn’t true – anyone with a bank or retirement account, a home, or a family needs to make a plan for what happens if they become incapacitated or when they die. Of course, the complexity of the plan will vary depending on your circumstances, but all estate plans should be put together with the help of an attorney who is experienced with the legal formalities required to create a valid will, trust, health care directive, and power of attorney.
How Old Is Your Estate Plan?
Do you already have an estate plan?
If you do, then please pull your documents out of the drawer, dust them off, and look at the date you signed them.
Were your documents signed in the 80s or 90s, or, worse yet, before 1980? If so, please run, don’t walk, to an estate planning attorney, because your documents are terribly out of date and need to be updated as soon as possible.
Did you sign your documents between 2000 and 2009? Aside from the federal estate tax exemption jumping from $675,000 to $3,500,000, Maine decoupled from federal estate tax provisions during that time period. Because of the significant changes in federal and state estate taxes, documents from this time period may be out of date and need to be tweaked in some shape or form.
Did you sign your documents between 2010 and 2015? Federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes went through major changes during these years, and “portability” of the federal estate tax exemption between married couples was introduced. Maine’s estate tax exemption also changed from $1,000,000 to $5,450,000 over this time.
Since 2015, there were additional tax changes that affected estate planning, such as the SECURE Act in 2019, which significantly altered the distribution options for beneficiaries of inherited retirement accounts.
And last but not least, regardless of what year you signed your estate planning documents, think about all of the changes in your life since you signed them. Did you get married or divorced, have children or grandchildren, or move to a new state? Did you sell your business, retire, have a significant change in assets, or win the lottery? Any major changes in your family or financial situation will certainly have an effect on your estate plan.
Like Covid Vaccinations, Estate Planning Is Not a One-Shot Deal
(Too soon for that joke?) Estate planning is not a static event that you can grudgingly do once and then forget about it. Estate planning is a continuing process, because life is a moving target that is full of constant change: Your estate plan needs to change as your life changes.
For those needing an estate plan, I am here now and in the future to mold your estate plan as you move through the various stages of life.
Please schedule an initial call to discuss how I may be able to help.