Estate Planning Tidbits

Estate Planning is something that many of us put off because it forces us to come face-to-face with our own immortality. Estate lawyers tell us that a large percentage of clients that come in for new wills never come back to execute these documents. I guess they think as long as they don’t sign the new wills then they won’t ever die.

Estate planning often is defined more by what the wills don’t say versus what they do say. Families sometimes are upset when one sibling receives more than another. Was that intentional or just sloppy? Sometimes it is difficult to determine. Wills should reflect current desires but this happens only if we keep the documents reasonably up to date.

Who Should Prepare My Estate Documents?

We recommend our clients have estate documents prepared by specialists who have additional expertise in estate tax and probate matters. While your neighbor who is a litigation attorney can likely draft a will, our advice is to seek out competent specialized assistance. Estate tax lawyers come in all varieties. It is important to find someone where you can establish a good rapport. We often attend initial estate planning meetings with our clients. This way we can help make certain that the ownership and structure of various assets is communicated properly.

What Should You Include?

Most states, including South Carolina, allow for personal memorandums to detail the passing of non-financial, non-real estate assets. These memorandums can detail furniture, jewelry, art, and other items. You can even write these listings in your own hand, as long as you also sign and date them. If the memorandum doesn’t exist or can’t be found, the division of assets as contained in the body of the will takes hold. While many experts recommend reviewing wills every 3 years or so, these memorandums can easily be changed much more frequently if desired.

While many financial and tax laws are in flux, we now have some “permanence” with estate tax laws. If you haven’t updated your wills (along with related durable and health care powers), now is a good time to do so. We are happy to refer an estate tax attorney who should be a good fit for your circumstances.

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