A New Year brings tons of opportunities for you to make and achieve resolutions. Whether you’re improving your diet, finances, weight, health, or lifestyle, make this year your year. A big part of ensuring that you’re ready to meet the New Year head-on is to plan properly. Planning can help safeguard against challenges. Think about it. For weight loss, you plan your meals and exercise routine. For finances, you plan out your budget. Planning is a key part of meeting your goals.
Estate planning is no different. Throughout the year, you should not only think ahead in terms of your lifestyle; you should also be prepared to meet financial challenges you may come across. Here are some key life events or changes and what you may want to do to plan for them.
New Family Members
Is a new family member joining you? Perhaps a relative is expecting a baby or someone in your family is getting married. If that is the case, you should adjust your estate plan to reflect these new changes. For example, if you have grandchildren (or are expecting some) and you want them to receive some of your estate, consider setting up a trust that will grant them the assets once they are of age. A trust will let them receive the asset immediately upon the date of your choosing, as it goes into effect right away. This will allow them to avoid probate court, too.
…Or Maybe Just Some New Assets
Maybe you don’t have a new family member, but you did get some new assets. Perhaps you’re buying a boat, new stocks, another home, etc. in 2019. You will want to think about what will happen to that asset after you pass away. While that’s not exactly a positive thing to consider, it’s important to ensure that the asset, if you own it, goes into the right hands. Again, as stated in the previous section, you could set up a trust. Or, you could set up a different type of transfer. Either way, put these new assets into your estate plan to guard them against probate court.
Any Upcoming College Plans
If your kids or grandkids are considering college, you might want to take a look at a 529 plan. This is a tax savings plan that the IRS offers. Another name for the 529 plan is a “qualified tuition plan.” The IRS offers a 529 plan to encourage people to save up for college. You can choose from either a prepaid tuition plan or a college savings plan. Prepaid tuition plans let the plan holder purchase credits from their chosen educational institution, while savings plans act as investment accounts for someone saving up to attend college. Each comes with their own tax advantages, benefits, and disadvantages. If someone in your family is attending college and you want to help them out, consider taking a look at your state’s 529 plan.
People get sick. Unfortunately, it happens, and the best way to deal with it is to meet the challenge head on. To prepare for this unpleasant surprise, you should complete a healthcare directive and name your power of attorney. A healthcare directive details your instructions to the hospital or doctor taking care of you. The directive gives these instructions if you are too incapacitated to deliver them yourself. A power of attorney also lets a trusted individual (who you select) control your finances and make financial decisions on your behalf. Both of these financial tools give you autonomy in your decision-making, even when you are sick.
Aging: Still Inevitable
Another reason to take a close look at the sufficiency of your estate plan is the inevitable fact that people age. You will want to begin thinking about where you want your assets to go after you pass on. An effective estate plan will allow your assets to pass to your family without the involvement of probate court.
These are just some of the changes you might experience this new year. Right now, we’re only in the first few weeks of the year. There is still time to plan ahead and avoid any unpleasant surprises. When it comes to your other New Years’ resolutions, you will want to get a plan together for success. Your finances are no exception.