Estate Planning Checklist Before the New Year

Sunday, December 28, 2014 | 7:42 pm

Before your ring in the New Year, revise your estate plan and update according to any of your life’s changes. Here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind:


• Update your current will and trust to reflect any changes to your life, such as births, deaths, divorces, or moves to a different state

- Consider adding digital assets to your current estate plan, which would include distribution and management of assets, including digital assets, such as a blog and social media accounts; MP3 files, digital art work, software and more.

- Parents of minor children should determine if changes to guardianship designations should be made.

- Parents of children 18 years and older should discuss and prepare a Durable Power of Attorney Advanced Health Care Directives for the adult child. Even if an 18 year old is under the financial care of their parents, in most states parents do not have authority to make decisions on behalf of their young, adult children.

- It’s always a good idea to revisit your living will and power of attorney documents to make sure they still reflect your current wishes.

- Update personal property records to reflect acquisitions of valuable jewelry, antiques, fine art, or collectibles

- Update the appropriate parties regarding the location of your important estate planning documents and any major changes that have been made to these documents.


• Make year-end gifts to heirs up to the annual exclusion limits of $14,000 for singles or $28,000 for married couples

- Consider front-loading 529 plan accounts for children and grandchildren with five years worth of annual exclusion gift amounts.

- Pay a child or grandchild’s tuition or medical expenses directly to the school or medical provider. (Payments made directly to schools or medical providers are not subject to gift taxes, regardless of the amounts

- Make charitable gifts to organizations you would like to support so you are able to use the deduction on your 2014 income tax return. (Keep in mind that donations of physical objects such as fine art or antiques must be received by the organization by December 31 to qualify for the deduction.)

- Make any desired end of the year IRA contributions.

- Determine if year-end distributions from non-grantor trusts are suitable for tax planning purchases.

Alexandra-Smyser 1-7-2015Ali Smyser is an Estate Planning Attorney at the Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer in Pasadena, Calif., who handles all areas of including trusts, wills, probates, general and limited conservatorships, and special needs trusts. Her areas of expertise include estate plans for mature adults, as well as families with blended families or special needs. She is a member of the California State Bar, the Los Angeles County Bar and the Pasadena Bar Association. She is active with numerous community organizations, including USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital Women’s Council, USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital Planned Giving Committee, Salem Lutheran Church, and National Charity League.

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