Articles Tagged with Update Estate Plan

Most Texans do not have an estate plan in place to dictate what should happen to their assets and finances after they pass away. And after they create an estate plan, they tend to not think about it often after that. While having the estate plan itself is commendable and important, estate plans can become out of date and less useful for the individual who created them. Because of this, it is important to know if an estate plan is out of date and have an experienced attorney review the document every few years.

Why Is It Important to Have an Estate Plan in Place?

It is a common misconception that estate planning is merely deciding who will receive a person’s assets after they pass away. While this is a critical part of estate planning, a person’s estate plan will often include other directives, including a fiduciary power of attorney and healthcare directive. These documents will provide someone else with the power to make medical and financial decisions on the other person’s behalf if they become incapacitated and cannot make these choices for themselves.

2021 is nearly over, with a new year around the corner. While this is generally a time of celebrating holidays and preparing for the new year, there are some estate planning considerations that should be taken into account before 2021 is over. Although this may not seem like a top priority, there are timing considerations because of proposed legislation that may impact estate plans by 2022. Below are some common items that should be reviewed and discussed with an estate planning attorney by the new year.

Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

While Texas does not have a state estate and gift tax, there is a federal tax. The estate tax is a tax levied on a person’s estate plan and is based on the amount of assets a person is giving to others in their estate plan once they have passed. Currently, estates under $11.7 million are not taxed; however, this amount is set to roll back to a lower level soon. While the current plan is to lower the exemption amount to $5 million in 2026, there are discussions in Congress about speeding up this rollback to the beginning of 2022.

Laws can be quickly passed through Congress, so it is difficult to predict whether this effort to lower the estate tax exemption by 2022 will be successful or not. Because of this, individuals should speak with an estate planning attorney who will advise them on whether their estate is likely to be impacted by this federal tax change—and changes they can make to their estate plan if they are impacted.

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Individuals often ask Houston estate planning attorneys about some of the worst mistakes that can occur during—or after—the estate planning process. One of these fatal errors is when estate plans are not updated as the person’s situation in life changes. An estate plan—detailing who the person would like to receive their assets after their death—is based on the individual’s relationships at the time the estate plan is drafted. However, throughout the years, relationships and situations change that might precipitate the need to change the plan. Because it can be confusing to know if an estate plan needs updating, below are common questions and answers about this topic.

What Are Some Common Life Changes that May Alter an Estate Plan?

Common examples of life changes that may impact an estate plan include divorce or change in relationship status, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. In the case of divorce, there is often a need to change estate plan documents after the divorce is finalized. In many cases, spouses are named as beneficiaries in wills, life insurance, and retirement plans. However, if the beneficiary listed is not changed by an attorney, the ex-spouse will likely receive the listed policy or asset if the person dies.

Signing document"Many have not taken adequate steps to review and update these plans since the moment they were signed. Meanwhile, major life events such as marriage, the birth of a child or the launch of a business may have occurred."

Estate plans are not a one-shot deal. They are like a snapshot of your life at a particular point in time. An old estate plan shows how your property and life circumstances looked at the time it was made. But things change over time, and so should your estate plan.

If you never change your estate plan, it might stop doing what you want.  As Forbes points out, in an article titled Why You Should Update Your Estate Plan,” if you do not update your estate plan when your life circumstances change, then you might be risking costly legal battles for your heirs. Significant property acquisitions that are not accounted for in your estate plan can lead to problems. Having additional children or getting divorced can cause problems, if you do not change your estate plan. Tax law changes could make your old estate plan ineffectual.

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