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Why You Need to Review Your Estate Plan This Year

TAS, EAD & JHM - Sofa

By Hoffman & Associates

In addition to reviewing what impact the significant changes to the tax code may have on your estate, reviewing your estate plan should be on your to-do list for 2018. The Disposition of your Assets Your will serves as the primary means for communicating your wishes to your loved ones, so it just makes sense to keep it up to date.

The provisions of your will provide how assets will be transferred, which may be outright transfers to beneficiaries, to an existing trust (inter vivos trust) or into a new trust created under the provisions of your will (testamentary trust).  A testamentary trust in a will can specify the ages of beneficiaries or other terms that determine when beneficiaries will receive assets or may become trustees of trusts created for their benefit. Wills may also contain specific bequests of financial and nonfinancial assets, like family heirlooms, and your charitable intentions can be addressed in your will.

Administration and Financial Management. Who should handle your affairs when you pass? When a person passes away, an estate is created. The person or institution managing the affairs of the estate is the executor or personal representative, who is tasked with taking care of the decedent’s assets and liabilities, working with the probate courts, and disposing of the assets in accordance with the will.  The person or entity named to this position should be someone you trust who can handle the organization and time involved in administering an estate.

Guardianship for Children. Who should care for your minor or disabled children? If you have minor or disabled children, the will should designate your choice of a guardian and a successor guardian.  This is a critically important and emotional decision for parents, and it may need to be revisited often as your children grow and family circumstances change.

Trusts.  Trusts give you continued control over assets and their use for the benefit of your descendants or other beneficiaries. We are firm believers in the use of trusts to protect the legacy you leave behind.  Placing your assets in trust for the benefit of your beneficiaries can shield those assets from divorce and the claims of creditors and predators, and they can be especially important when leaving assets to those with financial issues, a person with a disability or an addiction, or a financially unsophisticated beneficiary.  There are many types of trusts, and many levels of control and discretion that can be included in a trust.   We can help you to select the right kind of trust and make sure it is set up correctly in your estate plan.

Planning for Incapacity. How will your affairs be handled in the event of a debilitating medical event like Alzheimer’s or dementia? In addition to the will, everyone should have a health care directive, which includes a living will and a general durable power of attorney for financial matters. In your healthcare directive you are naming an individual to make specific medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot do so.  In addition, Georgia includes a living will section in the directive allowing you to express your wishes with regard to your end of life care and life sustaining measures.

A general durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone who can seamlessly and efficiently handle all non-medical decisions on your behalf.  A general power of attorney can be very broad, allowing your trusted agent to step into your shoes and handle investments, taxes, real estate, even communication with your utility providers.  Because of the risk for potential abuse with such documents, you must choose someone you trust to handle these decisions.  However, having such a document in place can avoid the need for a Guardianship and Conservatorship proceeding in Probate Court in the event of your incapacity, saving your loved ones the time, money and lack of privacy involved in such proceedings.

TaxesWhat impact do the 2018 tax changes have on your estate plan?

The 2018 tax code overhaul is not limited to the super wealthy.  With portability, increased exemptions and gifting opportunities, it is worthwhile to examine your situation under the lens of the revisions to the tax code.

So, this year, make it a priority to review your existing estate plan, or make one if you don’t yet have on in place!  A review will provide you with a chance to make sure the plan still aligns with your life choices and to see if any changes are needed or advisable based on your wishes, your family circumstances and tax considerations.

We would welcome the opportunity to carefully craft a will, trust, healthcare directive and power of attorney that best suits your family. Contact us for more information at 404-255-7400 or info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.