The New Year: A Time to Update your Estate Plan

Published On: January 28th, 2016

As we all know, the New Year is an excellent time for making resolutions. Some of these resolutions are perennial favorites such as eating healthier and going to the gym. Others revolve around scheduling the dreaded annual visits – doctor check-ups, accountant meetings, and financial advisor appointments. None of it is particularly fun, but all of it is necessary.

In keeping with these resolutions to improve your physical and financial health, the New Year is also a good time to review your estate plan.

A common question from those who do not yet have a Last Will and Testament: I’m not a millionaire. I don’t have an estate. Do I really need a plan?

The answer: Yes. If you have bank accounts, personal property, a car, a house, you have an estate. If you want to decide who gets it, most likely you need a Will.

If you already have a Will and are wondering whether you need to make changes; here are some questions to consider:

  1. Do you have any new children or grandchildren?
  2. Are there family members with special needs?
  3. Has there been a death, divorce, or remarriage that affects what you want to leave to one beneficiary or another?
  4. Have your assets changed substantially since you last executed a Will?
  5. Are you familiar with the ever increasing estate tax exclusion amount in New York?

Even in those rare cases where you do not need a Last Will and Testament, you still should make sure you have Advance Directives, including a health care proxy and a power of attorney. Every adult should have these documents. While estate attorneys regard these documents as the most basic and necessary part of an estate plan, they are really not an estate plan at all but a life plan. Advance Directives are the documents your family members rely on in that worst case scenario where you become so incapacitated that you are unable to make medical or financial decisions for yourself.

I meet with clients everyday who put off making these decisions because they are difficult. No one wants to think about being sick or about dying. It’s natural to avert your eyes from this type of planning. However, by taking care of what you want to have happen in the event of your disability or death, what you are really doing is providing peace of mind for your family so that they know they are protecting and honoring your final wishes.

So, start your New Year off right by reviewing your existing estate plan today; and, if necessary, call Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider PLLC to schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney.