With the fall season approaching, it’s an excellent time to review your affairs. Below is a fall legal affairs estate planning checklist to ensure your planning meets your needs and is up-to-date:
1) When was your power of attorney last updated?
A power of attorney is a valuable legal document, no matter what the circumstance. Not only is it flexible and can be prepared to meet your particular needs, but it can be made effective immediately or when you are unable to manage your own affairs. It is vital to review it periodically and replace it with a new one as necessary. This need may arise if you need to name a new person to help you or if you need to add or remove powers from the document. Lastly, it is becoming increasingly common for banks and other financial institutions to have policies to question or deny power of attorney documents that are more than a year to eighteen months old. While such polices are legally suspect, it would simply be easier for you to have an updated power of attorney in place.
2) Does your will or trust still match your wishes?
Once a will or trust is created, many people simply put it in a safe place and forget about it. There are several reasons to review and update these estate planning instruments (and others) including marriage or divorce, birth or adoption of a child, a recent windfall of cash or assets, the purchase or sale of a home, or a recent move to another state or country. Your life changes so your will or trust must change too to ensure that your needs and desires continue to be met.
Your estate plan needs to also adjust to changes in the law. There have been a number of significant tax law changes in the past decade. Even assuming nothing else in your life changed, if you created your estate plan in 2010 or earlier, you estate plan might be outdated and render undesirable results. For example, many people who created trusts in 2010 and earlier commonly incorporated a technique called an “A/B trust” planning. The main purpose was to minimize the impact of the federal estate which is no longer a concern for most given the high exemption thresholds (currently $11.4 million per person in 2019). Keeping those outdated planning strategies in place risks undesirable outcomes such as restricted access and increased capital gains taxes for beneficiaries.
3) Is your business paperwork in order?
Whether you own an LLC, corporation, or another type of business entity, its very important to ensure your corporate governance (i.e. business paperwork, policies, and procedures) is in order. For example, in California, paperwork needs to be filed with the secretary of state and potentially other government agencies.
In addition, make sure all of your documents have been updated, fees have been paid, and licenses have been renewed. If they are not yet due, make sure to calendar these deadlines as to not miss them. Lastly, ensure your business has appropriate bank accounts, accountings, and overall is operating as a business. Any time you commingle funds or operate in a way which makes it difficult to distinguish between you as a person and you as a business, risks your ability to use your business to shield your personal assets from your business’ creditors and lawsuits.
4) Have you met with your tax advisor recently?
End-of-year planning is important any year when it comes to your taxes and potential liability, but this is especially true now in light of the 2017 tax changes passed by Congress. The IRS has been busy releasing regulations and new forms in 2018 and again this year. As we already experienced this year, the net result has been a more confusing tax planning landscape. For do-it-yourself tax filers, it’s important to note that the consumer tax filing software has been struggling to keep up with all the changes. As a result, a number of tax returns were completed and filed incorrectly.
Moreover, there may be opportunities to leverage new laws and regulations to your advantage. One big one for business operators is capitalizing on the section 199A regulations known as the “QBI” deduction (“qualified business income” deduction). For those operating LLC’s and S-Corps, they might be eligible to receive up to a 20% tax deduction on business profits. There are a number of very confusing requirements and exceptions so it’s important to get tax advice from a qualified and experienced tax professional. Learn about your options under the law ahead of time so you have enough time before the end of the year to make the necessary shifts so you are not hit with a not-so-nice surprise come tax season.
5) Have you met with the rest of your professional team?
Whether the market is a bear or bull, it is important to meet with your financial advisor to go over your investment results annually and put together an investment strategy for the upcoming year. This includes insurance strategies, too. If your financial advisor is not licensed to sell insurance, then seek a referral to an experienced insurance agent so you can supplement your portfolio. For legal questions, it’s important to meet with your attorney before a legal situation becomes difficult to manage.
These are just some of the items you should focus on when considering your personal matters and ensuring your legal life is up-to-date.
Do Not Delay
There are several reasons to review and update your legal matters, including your estate plan. Before you make any decisions be sure to contact your estate planning attorney and the rest of your professional team. Understanding how your wishes are affected by applicable law will help make you make a more informed decision and protect you and your loved ones.
If you are looking for a law firm focused on developing long-term relationships who can connect you to a resource team of professionals to serve all your needs, please give us a call today.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He’s all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, veterans and teaching others how to protect what matters most: family, dignity, and legacy. Snyder Law helps parents from Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the greater surrounding Southern California area.