Time To Update Estate Documents?

          With the recent changes in the Internal Revenue Code, Congress has increased the personal exemption for the estate of anyone dying after January 1, 2011, to $5,000,000.  For a married couple the exemption is $10,000,000, and talking full advantage of the allowable exemption has been substantially simplified.

          If you have an estate plan done prior to 2010 when Congress adopted its changes, it is possible that your will creates two trusts to minimize the impact of the federal estate tax.  What was prudent then may not be now as a result of the changes if the value of your estate is less than $5,000,000 if you are single and $10,000,000 if you are married.  You may be able to simplify your estate plan to make the estate administration much less cumbersome (and less costly!).

           A second advantage of reviewing your estate plan is to update your “durable” power of attorney and living will.  Financial institutions and hospitals, which rely on these documents, are much more comfortable with a document which is recently signed.  A power of attorney signed 12 years ago may still be technically valid, but you may find a banker who questions its authenticity after so many years.  It could present a very difficult issue if the principal who signed the power has become mentally incompetent and is unable to update it.

           The other advantage of a routine review of your estate planning documents is that it gives you an opportunity to consider changed circumstances.  Someone you might have designated as trustee or executor may no longer be able or willing to act in such capacity.  Also, within your family, for example, the needs of your children or grandchildren are fluid and may need adjusting.  A review would permit you to make desired modifications.

           Take the time to review the documents; you may be surprised how long it’s been. If you have any questions, please call us.

 –Ken Butera


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