Periodic review of your estate planning documents is very important. As you get older, many things can affect your estate planning documents. Laws are always getting updated, and your family dynamic is often evolving (i.e. marriage or divorce, having kids, moving to a new state). Reviewing your Will, Advance Health Care Directive (a/k/a “Living Will”) and other estate planning documents at least once a year with the aid of an Attorney, can help make sure that everything is up to date and legal.
One reason to review your estate planning documents early next year is the upcoming change to the estate tax. Currently the federal estate tax (also referred to as the “death tax”) only affects estates which are worth more than Five Million, One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Dollars ($5,120,000.00). Most households in theUnited Statesdo not come close to qualifying for this tax. But what a lot of people do not know is that the federal estate tax is subject to change in 2013. If Congress does not act, the federal estate tax exemption will go down to One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) at a 55% tax rate in 2013, making many moreAtlantahouseholds subject to the estate tax. If this change does go into effect, people may need to explore other tax-savings mechanisms to try and avoid this rate.
One more document people may want to review is their Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. These documents let individuals determine how they want to be medically treated in such circumstances as being in a terminal condition or a permanent state of unconsciousness. In 2007Georgiareplaced the laws on Georgia Living Wills and repealed its laws regarding the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. While properly executed Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care prior to 2007 generally should remain valid inGeorgia, you should still contact an Attorney who can aid in determining if those legal documents should be updated. The 2007 changes in the law also created the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, which basically combines those prior documents into one document. Even if you have a properly executed Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you should seriously consider updating to the current Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care.
Other items people should also be periodically review are non-probate items such as IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance policies and pensions. These documents typically allow individuals to choose beneficiaries to those proceeds after your death, and those beneficiaries need to be updated as often as your Will. Making a designation for those proceeds in your Will typically does not change the designation of your beneficiary if you have not filled out the appropriate paperwork with your plan administrator. Many people make beneficiary designations at the start of those various plans, but then forget to keep updating that those designations as their lives change. Making an effort to review all of your estate planning documents once a year can ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of after you are gone. We will be happy to consult with you regarding these matters.