Checking In On Your Resolutions

So, we are in the first full week of January and life is regaining a normal routine.  How are you doing on your resolutions?  Last week, Yasmeen Khaleel gave a list of suggestions of areas to address with regard to estate planning.  If you read that blog, have you even given it any further thought?  I would hope so as it is so important to have your estate planning and financial matters in order.  I know, it’s not the easiest of matters to think about, but it is invaluable should something happen.

This week, we will continue with suggestions on estate planning and taxes.

STUFF WE OWN – We all have “stuff”.  And probably much more than we need or use.  The things we don’t use take up space, so why not start your spring cleaning during the dreary winter months when we aren’t outside enjoying the weather?  Start small in cleaning out an area.  Eliminate what you don’t need (someone will thank you later).  But, now that you have items you are willing to part with, what do you do with them?  GIVE THEM AWAY!  Perhaps family members or friends could use the items.  Better yet, give them to a charity.  There are several charities that will come to your home to pick up the items as long as they are bagged or boxed and one person can handle the parcel.  Charities will use these items in their thrift stores to generate funds to help others.  Go online or keep your eyes open in your mailbox for flyers of charities willing to pick up items.  Remember the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

SECURITIES – Do you want to benefit a charity or an individual by gifting some securities?  All gifts less than $15,000 can be gifted without any gift tax consequences known as annual exclusion gifts.  If you are inclined to pass along securities, check with your attorney or accountant with regard to considerations to be made in this regard.

BENEFICIARIES – Have you checked your beneficiaries on your IRA/pension accounts and/or life insurance policies lately?  This is an area frequently overlooked but very important.  If the primary designated beneficiary is deceased, are there contingent beneficiaries?  If not, then the asset upon your death will pass to your estate to be distributed pursuant to the provisions in your will rather than to a specific beneficiary.  Is this the disposition plan you want?  What happens if the designated beneficiary is a former spouse from whom you are divorced?  Who will benefit from the asset upon your passing?

ASSETS YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT ABOUT FOR A WHILE – Many of our parents may have taken out life insurance policies on us when we were younger.  Some of us may have had a 401(k) from a former employer.  Ring any bells?  If you haven’t thought about these recently, you should put this on your list of things to address.  If you haven’t thought about these for a while, now is the time.  Determine who the beneficiary is, what the current value is, whether the company may have merged and the current contact information.  Don’t let these assets escheat to the state as unclaimed funds for someone to deal with in the future.  It is much easier to deal with these assets sooner, rather than later.

UNCLAIMED PROPERTY – Did you know that you can search on the internet for unclaimed property in your name?  The site is “Missing Money” and you simply put in your name and the state and it will produce a report of individuals with similar names of funds being held by the state.  If you have lived in multiple states, check each state in which you resided.  You never know, you might find a surprise.

Next week we will continue with more suggestions.  Have a good week.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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