First off (and this doesn’t necessarily affect all of our clients), just a quick reminder thatthe second quarter estimated taxes are due on June 15th. This is the quarter that always sneaks up on everyone, as it’s only two months after April 15th — so don’t get behind!
Secondly, the summer is a perfect time to assess your financial picture from a holistic perspective. And by that, I mean: let’s look at your big-picture goals and your strategies, and create a workable plan, shall we?
In subsequent weeks, I’ll give you some “back of the napkin” strategies for a tax plan, but I want to remind you of another component to a well established financial plan today — one that doesn’t usually get handled well.
Because the numbers haven’t changed much since last I saw them:
Over 50% of adults do NOT have a will or other estate planning instruments in place to protect themselves and their family. And, perhaps even worse, over 69% of parents have not yet named legal guardians who can raise their children if something happens to them (by “in place” I mean something that would be legally recognized — not an “idea” that hasn’t been properly notated).
Those are scary numbers. Estate plans obviously provide great peace of mind for a family, and, of course, they can create a bunch of headaches if not handled correctly.
Believe me I’ve seen a few doozies in my day, which is why it always helps to have someone in your corner.
Whether or not we speak into your situation directly, we can also bring in specialized counsel. We aim to be your family’s advisors in all things financial, whether we have “skin in the game” (i.e. we get paid for it) or not. Our clients are our family, and we want to see you treated well by those who serve you.
So, all that said consider this:
Practical Tips For Your Estate Plan
“The noblest search is the search for excellence.” – Lyndon Johnson
You may have established an estate plan in the past, or you may not have gotten around to it, but it is critical that you ALWAYS have an up-to-date plan.
Most people are smart enough to keep their cars in good working order–it requires tune-ups, an annual physical check-up, etc. But I’m always surprised by the common misconception about how often they should have their estate plan reviewed.
You see, most people see estate planning as something you “do once” and never have to think about again. That’s just flat incorrect.
Just like your health can take a dramatic turn (for the better or worse) in a year, your estate planning decisions can change dramatically in a short period. Sometimes something simple happens, like the people you’ve identified to serve as the guardians for your minor children move out of state which affects your plan. That’s just one of many good reasons to revisit your estate planning decisions.
Plus, though there’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the higher estate tax threshold, there are many ways in which out-of-date plans can be “burned” by not complying with new laws.
Your estate plan is a “living and breathing” plan (at least when done right), and therefore has to be maintained to reflect your life as it is today.
Second, PLEASE ensure you have chosen the proper executor.
Whether you’re dealing with a significantly sized estate or with a more modest estate, choosing the person to handle these transactions is a critical decision for EVERY family.
It’s always a great idea to get professional advice in making these selections. But, if you choose to “go it alone” for some reason, here’s what you need to keep in mind as you consider who will be your executor:
An executor must:
* Obtain certified copies of your death certificate
* Locate Will beneficiaries
* Examine and inventory your safe deposit boxes
* Collect your mail
* Cancel credit cards and subscriptions
* Notify the SSA and other benefit plan administrators of
* Learn about your property, which may involve
examining bank statements, deeds, insurance policies,
tax returns and other records
* Get bank accounts covered by the Will released
* Place notices in newspapers so creditors can make claims
* Hire a probate attorney
Either the executor or the probate attorney must:
* File court papers to start the probate process and obtain
legal authority to act as your executor
* Manage your assets during the probate process, which
usually takes six months to a year
* Handle court-supervised probate matters, including
transfer of property to your beneficiaries and making
sure your final debts and taxes are paid
* Have final income tax forms prepared, and, if necessary,
have estate tax returns for your estate prepared and filed
Of course, the open probate process is something you will absolutely want to minimize and even avoid. A sound plan does this.
But this right here (the choice of executor), is where it starts. In the future, I’ll have more to say on the subject of an executor and why that choice is so important.
Aurelia E Weems, CPA