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What Is Next for Your Estate Plan?

Having an estate plan is a great way to ensure you and your loved ones are protected today and in the future. When creating an estate plan, we look at what is going on in your life at that time. But because life is full of changes, it is important to make sure your plan can change to accommodate whatever life throws your way. Sometimes, we can make your first estate plan flexible to account for potential life changes. Other times, we must change or add to the tools we use to ensure that your ever-evolving wishes will be carried out the way you want.

Life Changes that Could Impact the Tools in Your Estate Plan

Life is constantly changing. The following are some important events that may require you to reevaluate your estate plan:

●       The value of your accounts and property have increased

●       Your pay has increased

●       The balance of your retirement account has grown significantly

●       You acquired real estate in another state

●       You received an inheritance

●       You have a new spouse, significant other, or minor child that you want to provide for

Transitioning from a Last Will and Testament to a Revocable Living Trust

A will (sometimes referred to as a last will and testament) is a tool that allows you to leave your money and property to anyone you choose. It names a trusted decision maker (a personal representative or executor) to wind up your affairs at your death, lists how your money and property will be distributed, and appoints a guardian to care for your minor children. If you rely on a will as your primary estate planning tool, the probate court will oversee the entire administration process at your death. A will may adequately meet some clients’ needs.

On the other hand, a revocable living trust is a tool in which a trustee is appointed to hold title to and manage the accounts and property that you transfer to your trust for one or more beneficiaries. Typically, you will serve as the initial trustee and be the primary beneficiary. If you are incapacitated (unable to manage your affairs), the backup trustee will step in and manage the trust for your benefit with little interruption and with less potential for costly court involvement. Upon your death, the backup trustee manages and distributes the money and property according to your instructions in the trust document, again without court involvement.

If your wealth has grown or you have new loved ones to provide for, you may find the privacy, expediency, and potential cost-savings associated with a revocable living trust more appropriate for your situation.

Adding an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

At some point, you may decide that you need life insurance—or more of it—to provide for your loved ones sufficiently. If the value of your life insurance is especially high, you may want to consider adding protections for the funds in your estate plan, as well as engaging in estate tax planning. Both goals can be accomplished by using an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). Once you create the ILIT, you fund it either by transferring ownership of an existing life insurance policy into the trust or by having the trust purchase a new life insurance policy. Once the trust owns a policy, you then make cash gifts to the trust to pay for the insurance premiums. These gifts can count against your annual gift tax exclusion, so you likely will not owe taxes at the point of these transfers. Upon your death, the trust receives the death benefit of the policy, and the trustee holds and distributes the money according to your instructions in the trust document. This tool allows you to remove the value of the life insurance policy and the death benefit from your taxable estate while allowing you to control what will happen to the death benefit. An ILIT can also be helpful if you want to name beneficiaries for the trust who differ from the beneficiaries you name in other estate planning tools.

In addition, there are other, more complex tools like a Standalone Retirement Trust or a Charitable Remainder Trust, that may be the right options if your assets are substantial. The goal is that we use the right tools to accomplish your goals—not too complex, not too simple.


Let Us Elevate Your Planning

We are committed to making sure that your wishes are carried out in the way that you want. For us to do our job, we must ensure that your wishes are properly documented and that any relevant changes in your circumstances are accounted for in your estate plan. If you need an estate plan review or update, give us a call at 937-589-4144.

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