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Seven Point Year End Checklist

By Phil Rarick, Miami Trust Attorney

Hard to believe we are in mid-Fall and 2016 is coming to a close.   Now may be a good time to sit down with a Miami trust attorney and review your estate plan.  One of the biggest problems we see with individual estate plans is failure to keep the plan updated to ensure that it continues to meet the changing needs of your dynamic family. Here is a short checklist:

  1. Marriage/Divorce.Has there been a marriage, divorce, or separation of anyone named in your will or trust – such as your adult children or grandchildren?  Most persons want to ensure that their hard earned money goes to their children – or grandchildren –  not to any spouses.
  1. New Births Of Children/Grandchildren.  Has there been a birth or adoption of a child or grandchild?  First, if so, congratulations!  Second, this child may need to be added as a beneficiary of your will or trust with detailed instructions to make sure all funds are wisely spent first for education or health needs.
  1. Discord in Family. Unfortunately, we have seen too many cases where family warfare breaks out among the children where the father, mother, or both are no longer around to maintain peace.   To avoid such disharmony, it is important to have clear instructions in your living trust and a strong, independent  successor trustee with good peace making skills.  If this is a concern, have you addressed it in your trust prepared by a Miami trust attorney?
  1. Disability of beneficiary. Have any of the persons you have named as a beneficiary suffered any type of mental or physical disability?  If so, it may be necessary to modify your instructions to make sure any funds designated for this beneficiary are used in the most effective way possible.  For example, if a beneficiary may be entitled to receive SSI or other government benefits, this beneficiary may need a Special Needs Trust.
  1. Poor Money Managers in the Family. Are any children not good money managers?  Do you need to amend your trust instructions to make sure these funds are protected and cannot be grabbed by their creditors? 
  1. Successor Trustee.This is the person you have appointed to step into your legal shoes if you become incapacitated – in other words, one of the most important decisions you can make.  Who have you appointed to take charge if you are incapacitated?  What is the order of succession of trustees?
  1. Year End Gifts.  This year, any person can give $14,000 to any person – child, grandchild, or friend – tax free.   This gift must be made prior to December 31.  Such gifts require no reporting to the IRS, but gifts in excess of $14,000 do.   Remember: you never want to make such a gift outright to a minor child because they may blow it when they turn 18.   Better to make the gift to an Educational Trust for the benefit of the minor child.

As Miami trust attorneys, we endeavor to help keep your estate plans up to date with the changing needs of your family.  We are available to meet through December 16.   Please call Christy at (305) 556-5209 or email to cmedina@raricklaw.com to schedule an appointment.  Have an enjoyable November!

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