Beginnings & Births!
Change & Estate Plans!

The birth of a new year is upon us.  

New year, birth, and change; get ready now!

The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. WaldBefore that babe arrives, it is wise to go over your estate plan. 

Human babies and toddlers keep you up at night but fretting over estate plans can be avoided by planning ahead.  

Here we give you a checklist of things to think about or take action on before 2012 arrives with all its complexity.
Before December 31, 2011

Annual Gifting: Each year you are entitled to give away $13,000 to any person you choose, without paying any gift tax, filing any gift tax return and without these gifts being subject to future estate tax. 

The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. WaldIf your estate may exceed the current applicable estate tax exclusion amount of $5,000,000 for individuals and $10,000,000 for married opposite-sex spouses for deaths in 2011 and 2012, you should consider making such annual gifts. 

It is still unknown whether the applicable estate tax exclusion amount will be changed by the Congress for 2013 and after.  Currently, the law says that the applicable exclusion amount goes back to $1,000,000 on January 1, 2013.  

Charitable Giving:   It is always good to add up your charitable contributions at this time of year and see if there is room to make more charitable donations before year end.  The needs of charitable organizations are great especially in this economy.

Give until it hurts is the motto for some people. You may want it to be your motto.
NOW: Before  December 31, 2011 and in 2012

Review Your Estate Planning Documents
The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. WaldHave you had significant changes in your life since you signed your estate planning documents? 

Did you enter into a marriage or a domestic partnership, did you have a dissolution of your marriage or domestic partnership, has your life been changed by the birth or adoption of children, the death of relatives or friends, a significant inheritance, a purchase or loss of real property or the like? 

If you have experienced any of these life changes or any other significant changes, it may be time to review your estate planning documents.  Here are some suggestions.
Establish a Revocable Living Trust
For those of you who have executed a Will, is it time to consider establishing a revocable living trust? 

One of the most important reasons for having a revocable living trust is to designate a successor trustee to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.  In the event of incapacity, the successor trustee can take over your financial affairs, collect your income and pay your bills, mange your investment accounts and the like, all without having court intervention.  If you do not have a revocable living trust, in the event of incapacity a relative or friend will petition a court to appoint a conservator.  A conservatorship proceeding is very expensive AND PUBLIC. See the September newsletter white paper on Conservatorships for more information.

The second most important reason for having a revocable living trust is that after your death your successor trustee can distribute your estate without probate.  A probate proceeding is also time consuming and expensive.
In brief, a revocable trust saves the expense and time of a court experience.
Titling Assets in Your Revocable Living Trust
The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. WaldOnce you establish a living trust, it is important that all of your significant assets be titled in the name of the Trustee of your trust. 

Starting in 2012, if at the time of your death the total fair market value of your personal property outside of your trust is $150,000 or more or the fair market value of your real property outside of your trust is $50,000 or more, it may be necessary to file for a probate of those assets.  Remember, probate is expensive.
Paying Educational and Medical Expenses
You may pay educational expenses and medical expenses for any person and as long as the expenses are paid directly to the provider these gifts are not subject to gift or estate tax. 

Consider again the size of your estate and whether it will be subject to estate tax.  You may want to reduce your taxable estate by paying tuition (college, high school or even pre-school) for your grandchildren, for example.    

Charitable Remainder Trusts

If you have a significant estate, you may want to consider establishing a charitable remainder trust with a charitable organization such as a university or a hospital in which you have a special interest.  Under a charitable remainder trust, you would make a donation and receive an annuity during your lifetime.  The charity will receive the remainder of the annuity.   See last month's newsletter for more information on charitable giving and trusts.
Beneficiary Designations
The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald Check the beneficiary designations of your retirement plans, life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities, and other contractual arrangements that are not subject to probate and are not subject to distribution under your revocable living trust.  Make sure your beneficiary designations take into account all recent changes in your family and personal situations including divorce, births and deaths.  
Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Finances
This is a good time to review your powers of attorney for health care or health care directives and your power of attorney for finances.  Are the "Agents" you have named in these documents the people you would designate today?
Long-Term Care Insurance
Consider long-term care insurance.  See the Newsletter of August, 2011 for more information about LTC insurance or call our office for a referral to an agent who is knowledgeable about such insurance. Even a modest amount of coverage can help to defer some of the cost of home health care when you need it.
The Professional Team at the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald
Newborns come in many shapes
This is a partial list to help you ready yourself for the birth of a new year.  Your specific needs depend on your specific situation. 

The lawyers at the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald are available to review your estate plan with you and make recommendations for any changes that are needed.

Please call us at 415.482.7555 whenever we can answer a question.

Julia Wald
The Law Offices of Julia P. Wald
Save 15%
Don't forget the special offer on Comprehensive Estate Plan Packages

We will give you 15% off a comprehensive Estate Planning package -- including healthcare directives, will, living trust, and other estate planning documents -- when you complete your plan by December 31, 2011.


Call the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald at 415.482.7555 today! 

Offer Expires: December 31, 2011