In these tough economic conditions, when your estate may be losing money on a daily basis, it's a good idea to revisit your estate planning strategy and make any adjustments that are needed.
Here are a few subjects to consider and all would be good topics of discussion with your estate planning team.
Review and Revise Wills and Trusts
Some wills and trusts that bequeath amounts to someone other than a spouse probably were made with the assumption that the surviving spouse would have plenty of money available. This may no longer be the case. It might be time to change distribution provisions.
Make sure you still have enough resources to continue a planned giving program. It might be time to defer that program. Believe it or not, now might also be a time to accelerate gift-giving. For example, if an heir has lost a job, has a house in foreclosure or is facing some other potentially catastrophic event, he or she might need that gift now and the parent/donor's economic position will be of secondary importance. There are other options that may resolve this difficult family situation.
Discounts and Valuations
Many estate planning techniques take advantage of discounts on estate assets and allow you to make gifts or sales of these assets to your heirs that freeze their value for estate tax purposes. Now is a good time to re-examine asset values and potential discounts and act accordingly. Also, the possibility of more restrictive estate tax rules in the next administration provide further encouragement for clients to proceed and not delay planning.
The natural reaction during financial turmoil is to withdraw charitable commitments, but that might not be the best strategy. Charities will have difficulty raising funds over the next several months. Now might be a good time to add a charitable bequest to your will with the hope that economic conditions will soon improve.
Charitable Remainder Trusts and Gift Annuities
A gift annuity or CRT may assure you of a monthly or quarterly check for your lifetime (and that of your spouse), after which the remainder is distributed to the designated charity. This removes some of the financial uncertainty, as well.
If you had planned a large bequest but now are concerned that the reduction in your estate will undermine the funding of personal bequests, life insurance may provide an option. You may be able to have a charity purchase a permanent life insurance policy on your life and fund the charitable gift outside of the will, thereby preserving your personal assets for non-charitable heirs.
Other topics worth discussing with your estate planning team include probate, tax deferral, business planning, financial planning, asset allocation and family loans. Don't let today's financial turmoil ruin your future. A thorough review of your estate plan and any resulting modifications to it will help you rest easier even during the toughest of times.