Asset Stewardship in 2021
Often the images that come to mind when thinking about estate planning include death and taxes. Therefore, little consideration is given to this area of planning because death is seemingly too far in the future to think about, and the projected estate is too small to be taxed. However, this overlooks the other nuances of wealth transfer and personal matters that should be considered and planned for while you are living. This will help to ensure that what you have accumulated will get distributed in a fashion consistent with your goals and aligned with tax law changes.
A sampling of some questions to ask yourself can help determine if you are prepared. These include:
- Do you want to transfer your wealth while you are living or would you prefer to have it all distributed upon your death, and have you determined the most tax efficient way of handling that transfer?
- Do you know the annual and lifetime gift tax exemption amounts?
- Is a family loan a viable option for transferring assets?
- Is there a charity that you wish to give to on an annual basis, and is a trust or required minimum distributions from an IRA the best way to fund those gifts?
- Have you officially designated a person to pay your bills, write checks or sign tax returns if you are incapacitated or sick in quarantine?
- Have you considered your desire to partake in experimental medical treatments for COVID- 19?
- Is there someone who can legally make medical decisions and access your medical records, on your behalf or for your college-age children, if you or they become incompetent?
- Have you designated the level of treatment you desire if you become critically ill or the terms of end-of-life care?
- Do you want your estate to go through probate court or would you prefer that your estate remain private?
- Do you have an executor appointed to oversee the distribution of your assets and property at the time of death?
- Is there a guardian designated to care for your children in your absence?
- Have you documented how and when your children will receive their assets?
- Who will have access to your online accounts including email and social media if something should happen to you?
The scope of estate documents necessary to set in motion a plan that addresses these issues goes beyond just a will. Some of the other documents necessary for an effective plan may include a financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will, HIPAA Waiver, digital assets inventory, and living trust documentation. These are all documents that can be drafted up by an estate attorney.
The planning that you have already done in the past may not address the changing landscape of your estate and family dynamics, consistent with estate and tax law, today. We are responsible to be good stewards in distributing what we have accumulated over our lives. This can be both an effective means of blessing the next generation, and a final token of love to those we leave behind, making sure that our final wishes are clear and decisive.
If you want to begin or continue this conversation, please give us a call or send an email, and we will be happy to help!