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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

January 25, 2011 Newsletter Archive

So... Why Should You Review Your Estate Plan?

We have received many calls from our clients about the new Tax Act's impact on their estate plans. Although the new legislation has created a situation in which fewer families will pay estate taxes, effectively implementing your wishes still takes thoughtful planning.

Often we suggest that even if you have completed your estate planning in an effort to minimize your estate tax consequences, you should have it reviewed to ensure that it is still relevant in light of the new tax law. Traditionally, many trusts for married individuals include a structure designed to take advantage of former tax code regulations. However, given the recent changes such planning may result in unintended consequences. For example, your will may prescribe that an amount equal to the estate tax exemption be placed into a trust for your children, with the remainder passing to your spouse. With the exemption soaring from just $675,000 in 2001 to $5 million today, wills with these provisions may leave no remainder for a spouse — disinheriting the wife or husband altogether. We are sure that this is not a result that most of us intend.

Estate planning should always have at its heart the goals of the individual. Estate tax minimization is just one aspect, but in order to be most complete, a full discussion of your wishes for your loved ones after your death is essential to the process. It is really less relevant whether you have a small fortune or a small savings account. We have seen a number of unanticipated difficulties evolve when even a small estate has not been carefully planned.

We are aware that there is not a one size fits all answer. There is no magic template which captures everyone in the same way. Not only do we all have varied assets and goals for these assets, we also have diverse families. Candid discussions about family harmony or disharmony are fundamental to any comprehensive estate plan. We have seen too many matters come to us on the estate administration side of our work to remain nonchalant about this point. The more solid and complete you can be about your planning during your life time, the easier the management and security of your loved ones will be after your death.

Even seemingly minor life changes deserve a review of your estate plan. We encourage you to stay in touch and let us know of these life changes so we can continue to provide legal counseling for a more secure future.


What Should My Estate Plan Include?

Many people do not believe they need an estate plan. For some of us, the idea that we are planning for our death is an irreconcilable thought, and for others we think that estate planning is only for the wealthy.

We like to think that estate planning is about planning for life. In fact, many of the planning instruments are the ones that are utilized only while you are alive. Our legal counseling is a form of client education which helps our clients understand the benefits and protections that estate planning can afford them.

As a reminder to you we include below what instruments are in most estate plans:

Additionally, review assets such as bank accounts, CDs and money market accounts. Sometimes for convenience we name a child on those accounts. However, later this may lead to uneven distribution of your assets. Check your beneficiary designations to ensure that your IRAs, other retirement accounts, and life insurance policies reflect your current wishes for beneficiary designations.


Get Organized for Tax Season

Although a great system of organization may not end up minimizing your taxes, you may reap ancillary benefits, some financial. Getting all of our documents together can be stressful. Many of us do not always know where we placed last year's tax return, let alone all of the receipts of the past year. Collecting W-2s and 1099s makes us feel like we all could use a personal assistant throughout the year.

If tax season disarray is something of a pattern for you, resolving to use a personal finance program like Quick Books or Quicken throughout the year may make the dash to April 15th go a bit more smoothly. Such a system will allow you have easy access to all the information you need.

Just how should you begin your efforts to get organized?

Check out this site to find a handy and simple tax checklist.

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.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492


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