(Finally) Finishing Your Tax Returns Isn’t the Final Step
Hopefully you did not run up to the last minute for filing your 2016 tax returns (October 16, 2017 was the due date). Or maybe you even finished them in time for the April deadline! But even after your returns are filed, there are still a few items which should be on your financial to-do list.
You may have a trust based estate plan, which, if properly maintained, will avoid the court probate process for your family at your death.
However, trust-based estate plans can fail if your assets aren’t properly funded into your trusts or otherwise aligned with your plan. Follow these three easy steps as soon as possible to make sure you’re wrapping up the year wisely by leveraging the time you’ve already spent finishing your tax returns.
1. Review your trust or summary to ensure it still matches your goals.
If you’ve experienced some changes since you last visited your estate plan, such as welcoming a new baby to the family, suffering the death of a loved one, or experiencing major health concerns, you might have a new perspective on what you’d like your long-term estate planning goals to look like. It’s always a good idea to revisit how your plan is structured periodically to make sure it still works with your current situation.
2. Gather your most recent bank statements, investment statements, beneficiary designation forms, and other paperwork concerning new accounts.
You’ve already put together a stack of documents in order to prepare for tax season (or you were an early bird and did this back in April). Consider bringing those documents to us to make sure we don’t need to change anything in your existing estate plan based on your current account statements and other financial data. Remember, estate planning isn’t a one-and-done exercise! We need to routinely review and update your plan to ensure it meets your goals and works with ongoing changes to your assets, your family dynamics, and the law.
3. Call us to discuss updating your trust if needed and ensuring that all of your property is properly funded into your trust or otherwise aligned with your plan.
Things change over time. You may have closed prior accounts or opened new ones. Are you certain those new accounts are in your trust name? Perhaps you have purchased a new home since you executed your trust. Was it properly titled at the real estate closing? Did you refinance and a lender required you to retitle the home back to your own name for the refinancing? If so, did the title company also assist you in putting it back in trust name? Things can get complicated (and potentially expensive or confusing for your family) when the titling does not match up correctly. Also, simply listing an asset on a trust schedule doesn’t transfer title of that asset from you to your trust on its own, so it’s important to make sure that actual ownership of all of your assets aligns with your estate planning goals and documents.
Once we make sure that all three of these steps are taken care of, you can focus your energy on enjoying the coming holiday season with your loved ones rather than worrying about your estate plan. If you would like to make sure your trust based estate plan will work as intended, give us a call today to schedule a time to review your plan, update your asset schedules and ownership records, and otherwise help you achieve your estate planning goals.