Ten Estate Planning Tips to Start 2007 on the Right Foot

The NC Estate Planning Blog, has a good list of 10 things you should do in 2007.  I’ve tweaked them a bit here, but all of the credit goes to them for the post.

Here are 10 things you can do in 2007 to keep your estate planning on the right track.

1)    Last Will and Testament
Make sure you have an up-to-date, professionally-prepared Will and/or Living Trust.  Keep the original in a safe place and tell other people where that is.

2)    Title to Assets and Beneficiary Designations
Check your property ownership and beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement accounts and other assets to ensure that they are coordinated with your will or trust provisions.

3)    Durable Power of Attorney
Prepare (or have an attorney prepare for you) a comprehensive Durable Power of Attorney.  Register it if necessary.

4)    Health Care Power of Attorney
Even if you don’t currently have a medical condition, prepare (or have an attorney prepare for you) a current Health Care Power of Attorney, valid in your state of residence.  Make sure your primary care doctor has a copy and make sure that others know where they can find a copy.

5)    Think About What Advanced Directives You Want and Document Them
Prepare (or have an attorney prepare for you) a current Living Will or Medical Directive that clearly and accurately states your wishes. Make sure your primary care doctor has a copy and make sure that other know where they can find a copy.

6)    Touch Base with your Fiduciaries
Make sure you have spoken to your Executors, Trustees, Agents (under a power of attorney), and Guardians named in your estate planning documents to ensure they agree to serve and are aware of your wishes and other necessary information, including the location of the documents and contact information for your attorney.

7)    Insurance
Review all of your policies, such as life/medical/disability/home/auto, to see if you have adequate coverage.  Consider upping the liability limits on your auto insurance and purchasing umbrella liability insurance.  Those of you with young children, make sure you have enough life insurance to cover expenses through college (and beyond if they have such graduate-level aspirations).  If you are reaching your senior years, take a look at long-term care insurance.

8)    Asset Protection
Here are few tips lines under one heading (don’t say I never give you anything….):

If you own rental real estate, place it in an LLC.

Avoid large joint accounts.

If you are getting married, talk to an attorney about the advisability of a prenuptial agreement.

Protection your children’s inheritances by keeping the assets in trust for them.

9)    Taxes
Though you may normally be a do-it-yourselfer, have a CPA or tax attorney review your return to ensure that you are making the most of your deductions and any tax breaks.  If your assets exceed $2 million (including face value of life insurance), make sure you have addressed estate taxes in your estate plan.  Do not give over $12,000 a year to anyone without seeking advice as to the gift tax consequences of the gift.

10)    Attorney

It doesn’t have to be our firm, but establish a relationship with an attorney whom you can trust and easily communicate.  In addition to making sure that they are competent to handle your matter, make sure that you enjoy working with them and move on if they don’t return your phone calls promptly or act annoyed to explain the details to you.

That’s it….get started and sleep better at night.