With the New Year, many of us will feel as if we are starting off with a clean slate and a whole list of things we want to accomplish. High on that agenda should be taking care of some basics, including reviewing current estate planning documents, planning for retirement and aging, financial planning, and insurance planning.

Review your current estate planning documents. Are they up to date? If there have been any major changes in your close family, such as marriages, divorces, births or deaths, it’s important to bring your planning documents current, as soon as possible. In California, these documents should include, at a minimum, a revocable living trust, pour-over will, power of attorney, advanced health care directive, HIPAA, personal property memorandum, and a digital asset management form.

Retirement and senior planning. Will you have a comfortable retirement? Today, people are working longer than ever before and Social Security benefits may be insufficient to support their lifestyles. Think about increasing contributions to your savings plans, IRAs, pensions, 401Ks, and other retirement management vehicles to the extent possible. You should also consider factors that come into play as you age. Your estate planning documents should include financial and other powers of attorney, selection of a conservator, supplemental needs trust, and Medi-Cal planning. Making these decisions now, while you are able, can simplify difficult decisions later. Your family members will thank you.

Financial planning. Do you have a team of trusted advisors to help you look at your income taxes, investment strategies, and business planning? While not every person needs a business plan, we all need to have knowledgeable professionals around us to help us navigate the complex interplay of taxes and finances. Work with your estate planner, financial advisor, insurance broker, and accountant to ensure that you are making smart decisions. Here are some examples of things to discuss with your team:

  • Deferring or bringing forward income
  • Making annual exclusion gifts
  • Reviewing insurance, investment and savings strategies for the future based upon upcoming events (e.g., wedding, house purchase, birth or adoption, college savings planning, retirement from or the sale of a business, etc.)
  • Looking at tax-efficient ways of making charitable donations and gifts.

Insurance planning. Insurance is an often-overlooked and confusing part of estate and financial planning. Nonetheless, we all need health insurance as an essential part of maintaining a long and healthy life. In addition, life insurance is an important aspect of estate planning, as it can help fund family trusts, insurance trusts, and other vehicles for family support. Other forms of insurance to consider include long-term care, disability, umbrella, and, for members of boards of directors, Directors and Officers insurance. An experienced insurance broker can provide information that will help you decide what kinds of insurance, and how much, you need.
Planning ahead can seem overwhelming, but your professional advisors can provide guidance and help you and your family accomplish your goals for a prosperous New Year. If you have questions, contact Terri Hilliard PC at 805-201-2552 or e-mail administrator@terrihilliard.com.