What "Year-End" Financial and Estate Planning Moves Should I Make … Before 2017?

So, the big ball dropped in Time’s Square before you could attend to year-end financial and estate planning.

I get it.

Did everything seem to go by even more quickly this year?

I know I felt that way … and got sick, to boot.

Kitten and puppyIn case you missed it, in the middle of December amidst all of the hustle and bustle,The Business Investor’s Daily ran anarticle titled”5 Changes to Make to Your Financial Plan Now.”

Here is my thinking: If you did not get around to considering one or more of these changes recommended in the article because the clock ran out in 2015, then you have more than 350 days left to make good on them before 2017 arrives!

Since I know you are still running to catch up in the new year, here is a quick summary of the five recommended changes:

Make gifts to family.

Plan to make gifts of cash or tangible property up to $14,000 per person. Why? There is no limit on the number of such gifts you can makewithout anygift or estate tax. Couples can combine their gift giving to $28,000 per person. This is an easy way to reduce a potentially taxable estate. Establish a long-term strategy and give annual gifts to your beneficiaries.

Give to charity.

Are you charitably inclined? If yes, then even the tax code encourages you to be a “voluntary philanthropist” supporting the causes about which you care, instead of pet programs of the federal government. [The latter is “involuntary philanthropy.”]

Consequently, begin planning your charitable donations sooner rather than later.

For example, if you tend to make significant charitable donations, consider establishing a family foundation. To avoid capital gains tax, you should consider donating appreciated assets like stocks. A donor-advised fund is another way to receive a charitable deduction today, avoid capital gains tax and retain the authority to determine its future use. If you would like to get some current tax breaks and enjoy a lifetime income stream from the assets, then a charitable trust may be the e-ticket for you.

Check your beneficiaries.

This applies not just to your personal estate plan but also to the benefits you have from your employment, like life insurance and retirement assets. Regardless what your will and trust provide, they must be in alignment with the beneficiary designations on file for you.

Set up a meeting to address your health care proxies, powers of attorney, and an updated will.

Is this the year you need to schedule a meeting with your estate planning attorney to create or update your key legal documents?

Apply for Social Security and set up life insurance.

If you are or will be 62 before the end of 2015, apply for your Social Security benefits. One of the best strategies for married couples considering their Social Security and retirement finances goes away by the end of this year, so this needs to be addressed now. You should also update or buy life insurance.

While the list of things to do when it comes to your financial and estate planning matters is potentially longer than a third grade recital (for the performers and their audience), these five identified in the original article would seem to be a good start.

Remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.

For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.

Reference: Business Investor’s Daily (December 18, 2015) “5 Changes to Make to Your Financial Plan Now”