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Annual Estate Planning Review

February 2019

By: Brian A. Balenson

During the cold and snowy days of winter is a good time to think about your loved ones and any uncompleted health, financial, or estate planning items that need to be finished.

The Tydings’ Estate Planning Group is here to assist you with your estate planning needs.  Feel free to call us to review and update your estate planning documents.

Action items to think about:

  • Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living Trust:  These documents direct how your property will be distributed upon your death.  Have your wishes changed?  If you haven’t reviewed your documents in a while, it’s time to pull them out and take a look at them, particularly in light of recent changes to the tax laws.
  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney:  This document gives someone authority to act on financial matters on your behalf.   Do you want to name a different person?  If your document is more than 5 years old, it’s time to have it refreshed because they become stale with time.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney:  This document allows you to appoint a health care agent who will have authority to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make the decisions yourself due to illness or incapacity.  Do you want to name a different health care agent?  The document is also an advance directive, known as a “living will.”  Have your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment changed over time?
  • Children Attained Age 18:  If any of your children has attained age 18, you, as their parent, can no longer legally make financial and medical decisions for them.  Your adult children should have a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney.
  • Change in your Personal Circumstances:  Have any of the following significant changes occurred?
    • Have you retired?
    • Have you married or divorced?
    • Have you had a child?
    • Have your assets changed?
    • Have you bought or sold a business?
    • Have you inherited assets?

If any of these events have occurred, it would make sense to review your documents to determine if any changes should be made. 

  • Beneficiaries:  Certain assets, including life insurance and retirement accounts, pass at your death by beneficiary designation and not by will.  If you have not reviewed your beneficiary designations in a while, now is a good time to make sure they are still as you wish.
  • Personal Representatives, Trustees, and Guardians:   Are the persons you named in your documents for these important positions still the persons you want?   If you haven’t looked at your documents in a while, this is a good time to do so.
  • Digital Footprint:  People own many digital assets, which can include anything from domain names and electronically stored photos and videos to e-mail and social media accounts.  If your estate plan does not properly account for digital assets, your heirs may not have access to them and, for example, those photos and videos may be lost forever.  Accounting for assets in your estate plan is essential.  Start by making a list of your digital assets, including passwords, so your heirs know what you have and can access it.  Keep your list in a secure location and make sure your heirs know where it is.  Do your estate planning documents account for your digital assets?  If not, they should include language giving lawful consent for providers to allow access to appropriate persons.
  • Other Action Items to Think About:
    • Have you changed domicile or residency status?
    • Does your Buy-Sell Agreement for business interests need to be updated?
    • Do you have a business succession plan?
    • Have you purchased real estate outside of Maryland?
    • Should you make gifts to family members?
    • Does it make sense to establish a 529 Plan for education of children or grandchildren?
    • Should you establish a life insurance trust?
    • Do you want to make a charitable gift or establish a Donor Advised Fund?

Tydings’ Estates and Trusts Group assists individuals and families with their needs regarding the accumulation, protection, and planning of personal wealth.  We provide comprehensive services to meet our client’s needs.  We also assist with the administration of estates/trusts and handle complex family disputes and fiduciary litigation.  Please reach out to any member of our group:  Brian A. Balenson, L. Stephen Hess, Barry Weiskopf, and Daniel S. Katz.

 

 

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