John R. Bullis: Is your estate plan obsolete?

An estate plan is not something to ignore for years. The estate plan could be getting obsolete and not reflect your current situation, goals and desires.

The only thing that is constant is change. Your estate plan may need to be adjusted for the changes. Just the passage of time will have changes in the tax law and some of the non-tax law changes by governments, regulations and court cases.

The estate plan includes Power of Attorney forms for medical and financial purposes, your Will and/or Trust, the persons you choose to handle things for you and your financial and personal situation. Give careful thought to choosing your trustees, executors and agents. Their lives may have changed.

Because interest rates are low and interest income is less than it used to be or we want it to be, some estate plans now provide a surviving spouse more than just income. To pay only the income might mean the surviving spouse has too little money to live on. Instead, your documents might provide either a percentage of the total assets or a fixed dollar amount (that might be adjusted for inflation or not) and it can be paid from income, capital gains and/or principal, not just income.

Power of Attorney for Medical matters may need to be reviewed to be sure the HIPAA law is covered well so your family or agent can talk and work with your doctors on medical matters. You may want to consider who you appoint as agent. Perhaps your first choice is no longer around, is too old or not who you would choose now. Alternate or contingent agents may need to be changed.

A change in your life such as marriage, divorce and widowhood are important changes that might cause you to want to change your estate plan. A change in the marital status of a child or other beneficiary might also mean it is time to review your plan with your attorney.

If there are relatives you support now or are beneficiaries of more than small bequests, changes in their lives are worth considering. Perhaps you want to do some adjustments to your estate plan.

Changes in your health or the health of a family member can have an impact on how your plan might be adjusted. Maybe you have new or different charitable interests that should be reflected in your plan. You might be spending a lot of time out of state. Be able to prove your domicile (home).

If you are considering buying or selling a business or investing in real estate, it probably is best to meet with your advisors before you act. There may be ways to structure the change that would save taxes and better accomplish your overall estate planning.

Did you hear? “Your children need your presence more than your presents,” by Jesse Jackson.

John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.


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