Top 10 Estate Planning Tips for 2007

Estate Planning

1)         Last Will and Testament- Have an up-to-date, professionally prepared Will or Living Trust. Keep the original in a safe place.

2)         Title to Assets and Beneficiary Designations – Review property ownership and beneficiary designations for life insurance and retirement accounts to ensure that they are coordinated with your will or trust provisions.
3)         Durable Power of Attorney – Have a comprehensive, professionally prepared Durable Power of Attorney. Register it if necessary.
4)         Health Care Power of Attorney – Have a current Health Care Power of Attorney valid in your state of residence. Make sure your doctor has a copy.
5)         Advance Directives – Have a current Living Will or Medical Directive that clearly and accurately states your wishes. Make sure your doctor has a copy.
6)         Talk to your Fiduciaries – Make sure you have spoken to your Executors, Trustees, Agents (under a power of attorney), and Guardians named in your estate planning documents to ensure they agree to serve and are aware of your wishes and other necessary information, including the location of the documents and contact information for your attorney.
7)         Insurance – Review all of your policies to see if you have adequate coverage (life, medical, disability, auto, home). Consider upping the liability limits on your auto insurance and purchasing umbrella liability insurance. Particularly if you have young children, make sure you have enough life insurance to cover their expenses through college. If you are in your 50’s or 60’s, take a look at long-term care insurance to see if it makes sense for you.
8)         Asset Protection – If you own rental real estate, place it in an LLC. Avoid large joint accounts. If you are getting married, talk to an attorney about the advisability of a prenuptial agreement. Protection your children’s inheritances by keeping the assets in trust for them.
9)         Taxes – If you are normally a do-it-yourselfer, have a CPA or tax attorney review your return to ensure that you are making the most of your deductions and any tax breaks. If your assets exceed $2 million (including face value of life insurance), make sure you have addressed estate taxes in your estate plan. Do not give over $12,000 a year to anyone without seeking advice as to the gift tax consequences of the gift.
10)       Attorney – Establish a relationship with an attorney whom you can trust and easily communicate. Experience and credentials are very important, but they mean little if your attorney won’t return your phone calls or doesn’t take the time to adequately explain things to you.
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