One of our previous blog posts mentions upcoming changes to tax law this winter, and what further changes may be in store once November comes around and we know who will be in the White House next year. This could be interpreted as a reason to wait on making any changes to your estate plan; why update your plan when the laws may change in a few months or a year? But it’s not only changing tax laws that necessitate updates to your estate plan, and waiting too long can result in an unhealthy estate plan for you and trouble down the road for your loved ones.
According to this recent article in the USA Today Money section “A simple do-it-yourself checkup can be performed in less than an hour. All you really need is your [most recent] pay stub — the one that goes through the end of this week — and your 2011 tax return.” Once you have your pay stub in hand your next step is to “multiply your year-to-date earnings by two to get an estimate of 2012 income and compare it to last year’s final figure. The goal is to have a better idea of how your tax situation will look next year at tax time.”
That wasn’t too difficult, was it? Once you have an idea about how your financial situation may have changed, it’s time to look at family matters. “Review what might have changed this year. Do you have a new family member? Did one move out? Did you change jobs or move? Get married or divorced?” Any of these changes will require an update to your estate plan, regardless of your financial situation or the fluctuating tax laws.
If you have a little extra time, and you’re feeling motivated, you can also do a quick check of your retirement assets. “Take a look at your savings and any 401(k), IRA or Roth IRA that you have. Will you be able to max out 2012 contributions? Make sure you’re at least contributing enough to get the company match in your 401(k). And keep an eye on your medical reimbursement account, if you have one, to make sure you’ll spend it all by the end of the year.”
An estate planner can tell you exactly how your plan will need to change depending on your family and financial situation, but if you review and update your plan regularly you should never have any unexpected surprises, and you’ll always rest easy that your family and your assets are well taken care of.