Annual Due Diligence on Your Estate Plan
Having been in the financial planning business for more than two decades now allows me to observe things that are easily overlooked. It’s not uncommon for us to review a new client’s estate planning documents that were prepared immediately after a divorce five years ago and find that the client never changed the beneficiary designation on her IRA account. Her ex-husband is still the beneficiary. These experiences show how important it is to take a few minutes each year to ensure that your estate planning documents are up to date and fully implemented. Here are a few suggestions for an annual checkup:
• Changes in Estate Tax Laws—Federal estate tax laws changed recently, allowing for a more generous estate tax deduction. In addition, many states have updated their estate tax laws. The new estate tax law in New York became effective April 1, 2014. Also, if your personal situation has changed (e.g., death in the family, marriage, divorce), we highly recommend that you have your estate planning documents reviewed and updated. These documents will reflect changes in the law and/or your personal situation that will ultimately affect the disposition of your estate.
• IRA Beneficiaries— Verify that the documentation your IRA custodian has on file is up to date and in accordance with your wishes.
• Insurance and Annuity Policy Beneficiaries— Verify with your insurance company that the beneficiaries shown in your insurance and annuity policy(s) are also according to your wishes.
• Brokerage Accounts—You are now able to add “Designated Beneficiaries” on taxable brokerage accounts. If you are an individual account holder, we recommend that you add a “Designated Beneficiary” to your account. Doing this will prevent the account from being probated and lead to a smoother disposition of your individual account asset(s) upon your death.
• Authorized Check User—You might want to consider having an additional check signer(s) (highly trusted individuals) added to your bank or brokerage account in the event you become ill or disabled and need someone to assist you in paying your bills.
If your documents require updating or you do not have an estate plan in place, we would be happy to refer you to a qualified estate planning attorney.
An estate plan is only one element of a comprehensive financial plan. R. W. Rogé & Company, Inc. has been helping clients plan, achieve, protect, and live their desired lifestyles for more than a quarter of a century. Please feel free to call us at (631) 218-0077 to discuss your situation and see if we are the right fit for you and your family. Or visit our website www.rwroge.com and be sure to view our short introductory video regarding what we can do to help you.
Rosanne Rogé, CSA, RFG, CFP®