Best Year-End Planning Checklist

The holiday season is the best time of the year to enjoy and spend time with friends and family, and to reflect on the past events of the year, as well as to plan for the future.  There are many issues to consider.

Below are a few of the common year-end planning items to consider:

  1. Check beneficiary designations.  A Last Will and Testament is still an important estate planning document.  However, with “payable/transfer on death” (POD/TOD) and beneficiaries being listed on investments, accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, annuities, and other types of property will control who receives these assets, and not your Last Will and Testament.  Your Last Will and Testament will only control assets solely in your name and that do not have beneficiary designations.
  • Change of Circumstances.  Has there been a change of circumstances in your life, or family or heirs; or your assets? Such as an inheritance, moving to another State, illness, special needs, death, or family member who is involved in a bad cycle of their life such as a divorce/separation, financial hard times, or substance abuse or gambling issues?  Are the named people you nominated in the estate planning to handle the affairs and inherit your estate still appropriate?
  • Estate Planning Documents.  Year-end is a good time to let trusted family and those involved in your affairs to know where you keep a list of your accounts, investments, insurance policies, passwords, along with specific instructions as to your wishes.
  • Gifting.  Consider gifting of assets to start the 5 year look-back period if nursing home or long-term care might be a concern and to start the transfer of the wealth to help those who need the financial help now.
  • Consult with other professionals.  Likewise, it is always good to talk to your financial advisor, tax preparer, and your insurance agent.  Items such as change of tax laws or actions you can take to save on taxes such as contributions to a retirement plans, an educational fund such as a 529 Plan, or other tax planning.  Your financial planner should review your investments and confirm that you are on course for achieving your financial goals and are invested in line with your risk/reward tolerance.  Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage including liability coverage and to check prices of current insurance policies. 
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