business professional checking his end of the year estate planning checklist

The Ultimate End of the Year Estate Planning Checklist

End of the Year Estate Planning Checklist

Did anything change in your professional or personal life this year? If not, that may be a good thing, especially if you have achieved your goals and are set up for retirement. If you experienced changes, including family changes, career shifts, or laws change, a yearly estate plan review is crucial to ensure that your plans remain aligned with your current situation and goals. It will also take advantage of law changes that benefit you: this might include favorable tax treatment or protection when headwinds appear. In this post, we will look at several elements that should be part of your end of the year estate planning checklist. Some of these are actions that you can take without financial or legal professionals, and some require expertise.

Survey of Estate Assets

Every year, you should evaluate your assets, including real estate, investments, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Ensure they align with your current financial situation and objectives. If one of your asset classes increased or decreased significantly, you may want to consider a rebalancing of your portfolio. If unexpected profits resulted, which is always a good thing, you may want to consider the tax consequences and take appropriate action. This could include increasing gift-giving, studying tax sheltering maneuvers, and reinvestment possibilities.

Review whom you Designated as Beneficiaries

As life circumstances change, your estate plan needs to change to reflect those changes. If you have new or fewer members of your household, you should update your accounts accordingly. Review and update beneficiary designations on accounts, insurance policies, and retirement plans to reflect any life changes, such as births, deaths, or changes in relationships.

Update Will and Trusts

These legal instruments, like your beneficiary designations, need to be updated when circumstances change. Reviewing these documents on an annual basis will help if you fail to remember to make changes after significant events like a new marriage. You are forgiven for focusing on your new love! Check if your will and any trusts accurately represent your wishes. Consider changes based on changes in family dynamics, new assets, or changes in the law.

Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directives

Ensure your designated individuals for power of attorney and advanced healthcare directives are still suitable and able to fulfill their roles if needed. In the former category, focus on the person that you have chosen, and whether they remain capable and willing to serve in that role, particularly if circumstances have made that role more challenging, as when business interests increase. Regarding advanced healthcare directives, it is often sufficient to check in with yourself as to whether your feelings about resuscitation and intervention levels have changed.

Guardianship Designation

If you do not have minor children, no changes are relevant. If you do, review and, if necessary, update your choice of guardians, making sure that your choices are still suitable in their ability and willingness to serve in this important role if called upon.

Tax Implications

Take a look at any potential changes in tax laws that could affect your estate plan and make adjustments to minimize tax implications. This action is more forward-thinking in the sense that you are looking at tax rules that are up for adoption by state and federal legislators that might not take effect until next year or further off in the future.

Insurance Coverage Examination

Work with your family to review life insurance policies and assess if coverage is adequate or adjustments are needed based on changes in your financial situation and family size or circumstances.

Charitable Giving

If there are new organizations that you would like to help, now is a good time to include them in your plans. If you have charitable intentions, review and update any planned donations or charitable trust arrangements.

Digital Assets

This category is notable because of the volatility of the value of these assets. Survey your digital assets, such as online accounts, social media, and cryptocurrencies, and ensure you have plans in place for their management (including exit strategies if you are not holding them permanently). The rules and procedures for handling digital assets after death are still evolving, and they can vary by jurisdiction. Consulting with legal professionals who are knowledgeable about digital estate planning and the laws in your area can provide valuable guidance in ensuring that your digital assets, including social media accounts, are handled according to your wishes.

This is also an area where the law is changing frequently and tax strategies should follow these changes.

Professional Review

Of course, we would be remiss as lawyers if we did not urge you to consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure your estate plan aligns with current laws and regulations. Optimization is key, but compliance is also critical.

Helping you Maximize your Assets with an Update of your Estate Plan

Upon reviewing your end of the year state planning checklist, you may find that you need to work with your estate planning attorney. Our skilled legal professionals will provide legal advice to fortify your wealth, enhance your well-being, channel assets to your chosen heirs, and mitigate potential risks and expenses. We stand ready to assist with any inquiries, offer sound legal counsel, evaluate your estate planning, and tackle any necessary tasks to propel you forward.

Contact the dedicated team of attorneys at Lowthorp Richards for trusted guidance in digital asset management and estate planning by dialing (805) 981-8555 or completing our convenient online contact form. Our legal practitioners are deeply rooted in the California Tri-Counties region, serving Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.


NOTE: The information contained herein is not intended to be legal advice and the reader should know that no Attorney-Client relationship or privilege is formed by the posting or reading of this article which is also not intended to solicit business.

Cristian R. Arrieta, Lowthorp Richards McMillan Miller & Templeman, A Professional Corporation, 300 E. Esplanade Drive Suite 850, Oxnard, CA 93036