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Burlington, VT office 802.540.0529
Hanover, NH office 603.643.6072
Rutland, VT office 802.773.3822
Woodstock, VT office 802.457.9492

February 2, 2015 Newsletter Archive

It is Never too Early to Consider Spring Estate Planning Clean Up

It's February and though you may be cold, hope springs eternal, or should we say, hoping for spring, springs eternal. Yet though it is super, extra cold out there, you may be feeling pretty good. Maybe you are sitting on that beach, pictured above, your tax information is at your accountant's office, the markets have been good to you, your life is changing in many ways, and your estate planning is all buttoned up. Or is it? When is the last time you checked in with us about your plan and the changes in your life? It may feel like just yesterday you were signing your Will and Trust and Power of Attorney, but time has a way of getting ahead of us, and sometimes years slip by before we review our documents. Of course, as your planning attorneys, we think it is optimal that you schedule an annual review with us, just like you would a physical, or a dental appointment.

However, if you have missed reviewing your documents annually, we think spring cleaning is another good way to consider your planning affairs. Although we always consider spring a time to clean up our houses, it is never too early to clean up your estate plan. Specifically, there are certain events that should trigger an appointment to review your plan. These range but can be summarized as the following:

Getting married or divorced. If you were recently divorced, both you and your ex should redo your plans. If others named in your planning documents have been married or divorced, we should update that information too;

Additions or losses to your family. If you have specifically benefitted your grandchildren in your will or trust, a new addition to your family may be an essential change. Be mindful of step children that do not have claim to your assets unless you specifically provide for them. You will also want to ascertain whether anyone you have named in your documents has died so you can update for these changes;

Changes in your health. If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness (or if a parent has) it's time to review and update your estate plan, even though it may be the last thing you want to do. It will probably make you feel better than you think.

A move to a different state, or purchasing real property in another state. To avoid an out of state probate and its attendant costs, you will definitely want to make sure your property is titled into a trust if you hold real property is more than one state;

Change of income, assets and/or wealth, including an inheritance, to you or any of your beneficiaries;

Gifting. We recommend that you talk to us if you are considering making a large gift to a charity or to your family members;

Business ownership. If you are considering starting, buying or selling a business, it is optimal to call us ahead of time, so we can discuss operating agreements, succession plans, valuations, tax ramifications, etc.;

Aging. At 70 and ½ you will begin to take your IRA required minimum distribution. You may also consider asset protection planning, Medicaid planning and the like, and may wish to have an update on your specific circumstances relative to aging needs. An additional area for review is to ensure that your beneficiary designations for your IRA's and life insurance policies are up to date; and

State or federal tax law changes.

On this last note, regarding taxes, just because the federal estate tax is now $5.43 million per individual -- or double per couple with portability -- does not mean we can all ignore tax planning. In Vermont, for example, the state estate tax remains at $2.75 million, and while there is discussion in the legislature to make changes, nothing has been finalized yet. Today, it is especially important to keep focused on income tax planning, and the fact that in some cases it is optimal to have assets that are subject to estate tax to receive the income tax step-up in basis.

Laws and our lives are in constant flux. Accordingly, keeping your estate plan relevant with your life changes requires action, not apathy. Reviews of your named beneficiaries, executors, trustees, and agents are always important. If you have a trust, titling your assets into this trust to avoid probate is also a must do. Tying up any loose ends is always optimal to leaving things kind of messy. That is not the inheritance you planned on when you came to see us in the first place. Finally, even if you have had none of the specific changes listed above, a good rule of thumb is to have your planning reviewed at least every five years.

Call our office today to schedule your estate planning review.

Woodstock: 802-457-9492
Hanover: 603-643-6072
Burlington: 802-540-0529
Rutland: 802-773-3822

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Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

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Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492


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