Dollars & Sense - Re-Visit Your Will

Have you reviewed your will lately? If it was written many years ago it might not accurately reflect today’s wishes. With the rapid increase in the value of retirement plans, stocks and mutual funds, many people should take inventory of their assets and then check their wills to see if they still want their estate distributed in the dollar amounts or percentage amounts originally stipulated. If your will leaves a specific dollar amount to heirs, that dollar amount may now be rather puny compared to your total net worth. Also if your will says you leave the “remainder” of your estate to another individual or charity, that remainder amount may now be a very significant sum. The same is true where you have identified bequests by percentages. For instance, leaving 10% of a $50,000 estate to the care and preservation of your pet’s burial spot was a much smaller dollar amount than 10% of today’s larger estate. If you’ve identified specific assets in your will to be passed to heirs, you need to check to see if you still own those assets. Some may have been sold or are now worthless. When figuring out your net worth, if it exceeds the $1,500,000 allowed to pass free of estate taxes, you may want to start making annual gifts to children and grandchildren to bring your net worth under that exclusion amount. If you’re planning on donating money to a charity through your will, you may want to instead name that charity as the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan. This can save both income and estate taxes when you die.

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