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Your year-end estate planning guide: an 8-step checklist

Published on December 13, 2023 | LPL Financial

When it comes to your estate plan, you don’t just have it drafted and put away until it is time for your loved ones to manage your lifetime of affairs. As your world changes year by year, it is critical that you review your estate plan and update it to stay aligned with your long-term financial goals. Here is an eight-step year-end estate planning checklist to help you organize and prioritize your estate planning strategy.

1. Have you reviewed your will?

Reviewing your will as part of your year-end estate planning checkup is essential. As each year comes to a close, our life changes. These changes may impact your future financial plans and goals regarding your estate management should you die or become incapacitated. There are generally four types of wills that people choose from:

  • Attested Written Will – This is the most common type of will. It is typed, printed, and signed by the testator and two witnesses.
  • Holographic (Handwritten) Will – This will is handwritten and signed by the testator, and witnesses are recommended.
  • Nuncupative (Oral) Will – Typically, these are instructions by someone too sick to create a written will on how they want their personal property distributed. Nuncupative wills are not legal in most jurisdictions. However, in those which they are legal, a set number of witnesses must write down the wishes of the incapacitated individual as soon as possible.
  • Joint Will – A type of the last will and testament where two (or more) people, generally a married couple, transfer the entire estate to a surviving spouse when the first spouse dies. Upon the death of the second spouse, the children inherit everything.

2. Have you met your financial gift limit?

In 2023, the annual gift tax exclusion (or gift tax limit) is $17,000 per recipient without having to pay taxes on those gifts. Any gifts above that amount must be reported to the IRS on your 2024 tax return (form 709). There are exceptions to this rule, and a financial professional can help you learn how it could impact your financial strategy.

3. Have you reviewed your retirement and life insurance beneficiaries?

Reviewing your retirement and life insurance beneficiaries is important as people may get married or divorced, they may die, or a child or sibling may suddenly become a risk through addiction or an inability to manage money properly. In these or other relevant circumstances, you may want to modify the beneficiaries in your accounts. Beneficiaries typically don’t need to pay taxes on the life insurance death benefit they receive, especially if they receive it as a lump sum. If the beneficiary chooses to receive their payout as an annuity instead, any interest accrued may be subject to taxes.

4. Are your HCP and POA documents up-to-date and in a safe place?

A health care proxy (HCP) is a document that names someone to express your desires and make health care decisions should you become incapacitated. Examples include medical directives, living wills, or advance health care directives. Some states provide a statutory or standardized form, while others allow you to draft your own. A durable power of attorney (POA) for your finances names an individual who can make financial decisions should you become incapacitated. If you don’t have one it may be necessary for the court to appoint one. Only about one-third of adults 55 and older have a power of attorney.

5. Have you reviewed and revised (if necessary) an inventory of your assets?

It’s essential to keep an up-to-date inventory list, for example, the value of your home, other real estate interests, cars, jewelry, and other physical assets. You should also consider reviewing your recent financial statements, including your bank, retirement and brokerage accounts, and any safety deposit boxes.

6. If you own any trusts, are they accurate and up-to-date?

The creation of trusts helps to preserve wealth, alleviate some of the tax burden, avoid probate, and provide your family and beneficiaries a less stressful way to access your estate after you are gone.

7. Have you talked with your family about changes to your estate plan?

Establishing lines of communication regarding your estate plan and financial goals is an often overlooked strategy that can help preserve your wealth. According to NASDAQ, 70% of families lose their wealth by the 2nd generation and 90% by the third. These are overwhelming statistics driven in part by a lack of communication.

8. Have you reviewed your estate plan with your financial professional?

The details of your estate plan and any modifications can fundamentally impact your financial strategy and end-of-life goals. As the year is winding to a close, schedule an appointment with your financial professional to review all the numbers, beneficiaries, potential tax consequences, and any needed updates.

Important Disclosures:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.

This article was prepared by LPL Marketing Solutions.


Generational Wealth: Why do 70% of Families Lose Their Wealth in the 2nd Generation? | Nasdaq
The Ultimate Guide to Financial Power of Attorney | Take Care (getcarefull.com)
Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives (americanbar.org)
Is Life Insurance Taxable? | Progressive

LPL Tracking # 492091

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