Why Your 2010 New Year Resolutions Must Include Estate Planning
By:  David M. Frees III
Estate, Trust, and Probate Lawyer
Chairman:  Trust, Estate and Wealth Preservation Section - Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees
Phoenixville, Malvern and West Chester Pennsylvania

If your will is over five years old, you probably need to revise the documents in any case. 

Why Do You Need To Revise or Update Now? 

Because the laws that effect your estate plan change frequently.  For example, medicaid (nursing home laws), power of attorney rules, and estate, gift and inheritance tax laws change with some frequency.

Also, your personal circumstances often change enough in five years to make substantial changes likely.  Do you still live in the same state?  Are the guardians of your children and their trustees still local and convenient to them?  Do the trust ages still make sense?  Should young adult children now be the executors?  Have you purchased more insurance?  Are your assets worth much more or much less?

These are all good reasons to change your estate planning documents.  However, the last minute change in the federal estate tax law makes reviewing and revising your estate planning documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and living wills even more important than usual.

You see, while Congress allowed the tax to lapse, it does return within a year with worse tax consequences than ever for many people. And, to make matters worse, during the time when the law has lapsed, there is a very complicated new law that applies and still limits gifts and makes many inheritances taxable for capital gains tax purposes.

Finally, your existing documents may contain a trust formula that no longer works.  What?   Why?  Well, almost no one - even Congress- ever thought that they would allow the tax to lapse.  And, wills that provided for two or more tax systems could be very complicated. 

So, most estate planning professionals drafted documents that worked well under the existing system and under the proposed changes but might not work under the no estate tax system that we now have.

Bottom line?

Make sure to make an estate planning review part of your goals and resolutions for 2010.  And, to make sure that this is one of those goals that you'll achieve, call now to make your appointment.  It is easy, inexpensive and quick to have an estate planning review.  In fact, many law firms are offering fixed rate or free will reviews and fixed rate updates to deal with the new law.  For our clients and blog members, just call 610-933-8069 and ask for a will review appointment.  There is no charge for this appointment if you mention this article

In any case, be sure to ask about the fee for a review and the fee range for doing new documents.  If your law firm charges on an hourly basis rather than a fixed fee, ask them to give you a good faith estimate of the entire cost.

And, since Congress might actually come bask from recess and re-enact some version of the estate tax, ask whether or not those changes will be included in the price or if they will be extra.

What To Review?

Does my will still work?
Who are the executors, trustees and guardians?
Do I have charitable intentions that aren't reflected in my will?
How can I transfer wealth to reduce estate taxes, inheritance taxes and nursing home costs?
Who is guardian for my minor children?
Should I set up or revise a trust to manage money for minor or young adult children?
Did I do a valid durable power of attorney and health-care directive ?
Have I minimized the costs of settling my estate?

Happy New Year.

Get that revision done and you'll feel better all year long.

David M. Frees III
Unruh, Turner, Burke and Frees
[email protected]

David M. Frees, III
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