The Ins and Outs of Estate Planning and Building Your Plan
investing-my-money | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Garrett C. Spangler, J.D., LL.M. | Published: July 2021
Create an Estate Plan
Developing an estate plan is important for everyone, and imperative for those who have a family or are accumulating assets. Regardless of your level of wealth, an estate plan allows you to make your own decisions regarding who will receive your assets upon your passing, appoint someone to make financial and health care related decisions on your behalf if you are unable to, and help to minimize the cost and complexity associated with transferring your assets to your beneficiaries
Without a plan, state law or the courts will determine what happens to you, your assets, and your loved ones, which often does not reflect your wishes. Once a plan is in place, updates and revisions can be made as you grow older and aspects of your life change that impact the plan you have made. It’s never too early to get a plan in place. If you do not yet have an estate plan, the best time to get started is now!
Annually Review Your Estate Plan
If you have already taken steps to prepare an estate plan, the next step is to review it annually. This helps to ensure the people you have named to help you and those you have selected to receive assets are still accurate and current. If there have been any significant changes in your life since you made your estate plan, an update to the plan may be in order. Some events that may trigger a need to update your plan include the following:
- Family Events – If you have gotten married or divorced, had children or grandchildren, or if any of your beneficiaries have experienced a similar change in their life, it’s likely time to update your estate plan. It is best to specifically name and include, or remove, family members that may receive a portion of your assets.
- Assets and Business Interests – Any significant changes to your financial situation should trigger a review of your current estate plan. If you have acquired more assets, started or sold a business, or received an inheritance, it is important to determine what should be revised to reflect the change in your level of wealth and what should happen to any assets that you own. If your assets have increased substantially, making changes to your estate plan may also help you save significantly on taxes following your passing.
- Health Status – As we get older, we may experience changes in our own health or the health of our loved ones. Our own health may impact how and when we wish to distribute assets, or we may benefit from altering the plans we had established to protect those assets. The health of others may impact our decisions as to who may be most appropriate to handle our financial or health care decisions if we suddenly are unable to make them ourselves, or manage our estates when we pass away.
- New Laws and Regulations – Beyond the changes that might occur in our own lives or to our loved ones, the law is also revised periodically. You may be unaware of these law changes as they occur so discussing your plan with an estate planning attorney every three to five years is always a good idea to ensure any revisions to federal and state laws are addressed. In addition, if you moved to a new state or acquire property in another state you should speak with an attorney to ensure your plan will still work efficiently.
Leave Your Legacy
These are a few of the common changes people experience over the course of their lives which could prompt a need to revise an estate plan. There is a plethora of other events that could warrant changes such as those to your career or compensation arrangements, adjustments to your lifelong goals, desires to be charitably inclined, and more. You would do well to review your plan every year to ensure your legacy is carried on as desired.
About the Author – Garrett C. Spangler, J.D., LL.M.
Garrett Spangler is West Capital Management’s Director of Wealth Planning and leads West Capital Management’s Planning Committee. In his role, Garrett works with clients on a variety of planning areas such as trust and estate planning, wealth preservation, and income tax and liability exposure. Prior to joining West Capital Management, Garrett was an associate at The Erb Law Firm, PC practicing tax, estate, and business succession planning, with a focus on non-citizens and international planning for those with foreign assets. Garrett earned his law degree (J.D.) and Masters in Taxation (LL.M.) from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business.
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