How is your summer rolling along for you? I’d love it if you sent us an update on what you have been doing … even if it’s just a personal update. (You can send us an email through the link at the top of the page.) We take great joy in knowing that our work is being done on behalf of some pretty incredible individuals and families, and getting a closer look into the personal lives of our clients and friends gives us fuel!
This is especially helpful if you have had any changes on the financial front! We’d love to get ahead of what’s happening in your financial life, so that we’re not scrambling at the end of the year to take full tax advantage on your behalf (or, even worse, after the year is done, during tax prep time). But again, even just a personal update would be welcomed!
As you may gather, we are compulsive planners — which means that even if YOU don’t happen to be one, you get to leverage our idiosyncrasies on your behalf. Everybody wins.
And we like to help you think through every aspect of your personal, financial world. And an often-neglected part of many people’s financial world is an effective estate plan.
It’s a sad reality that over 50% of adults do NOT have a will or other estate planning instruments in place to protect themselves and their family. And, perhaps even worse, over 69% of parents have not yet named legal guardians who can raise their children if something happens to them. (And by “in place”, I mean something that would be legally recognized — not an “idea” that hasn’t been properly notated).
Those are scary numbers. Estate plans obviously provide great peace-of-mind for Long Island and Stamford families (and even for single individuals) … and, of course, they can create a bunch of headaches if not handled correctly.
Believe me, we’ve seen some problems in our day.
Which is why it always helps to have someone in your corner. Whether or not we speak into your situation directly, we can also bring in specialized counsel. We aim to be your advisors in all things financial, whether we have “skin in the game” (i.e. we get paid for it) or not. Our Long Island and Stamford clients are our family, and we want to see you treated well by those who serve you.
So, please consider this…
Long Island and Stamford Families Should Not Neglect Estate Planning
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
You may have established an estate plan in the past, or you may not have gotten around to it, but it is critical that you ALWAYS have an up-to-date plan.
Most people are smart enough to keep their car in good working order — it requires oil changes, an annual physical check-up, etc. But I’m always surprised by the common misconception about how often they should have their estate plan reviewed.
You see, most people see estate planning as something you “do once” and never have to think about again. That’s just flat incorrect.
Just like your health can take a dramatic turn (for the better or worse) in a year, your estate planning decisions can change dramatically in a short period. Sometimes, something simple happens, such as an out-of-state move by the people you’ve identified to serve as the guardians for your minor children. That’s just one of many good reasons to revisit your estate planning decisions.
Plus, though there’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the higher estate tax threshold, there are many ways in which out-of-date plans can be “burned”, by not complying with new laws.
Your estate plan is a “living and breathing” plan (at least when done right) and therefore has to be maintained to reflect your life as it is today.
Second, PLEASE ensure you have chosen the proper executor.
Whether you’re dealing with significant sums, or with a more modest estate, choosing the person to handle these transactions is a critical decision for EVERY Long Island and Stamford family.
It’s always a great idea to get professional advice in making these selections. But, if you choose to “go it alone” for some reason, here’s what you need to keep in mind as you consider who will be your executor:
An executor must:
* Locate Will beneficiaries
* Examine and inventory your safe deposit boxes
* Collect your mail
* Cancel credit cards and subscriptions
* Notify the SSA and other benefit plan administrators of your death
* Learn about your property, which may involve examining bank statements, deeds, insurance policies, tax returns and other records
* Get bank accounts covered by the Will released
* Place notices in newspapers so creditors can make claims
* Hire a probate attorney
Either the executor or the probate attorney must:
* Manage your assets during the probate process, which usually takes six months to a year
* Handle court-supervised probate matters, including transfer of property to your beneficiaries and making sure your final debts and taxes are paid
* Have final income tax forms prepared, and, if necessary, have estate tax returns for your estate prepared and filed
Of course, the open probate process is something you will absolutely want to minimize and even avoid. A sound plan does this.
But this right here (the choice of executor), is where it starts. In the future, I’ll have more to say on the subject of an executor and why that choice is so important.
More to come. And again, we’re in your corner.
Michael J. Kessler, CPA