Should I use an online Will?
Do-it-yourself estate planning services often want you to believe that preparing a Will is as simple as filling in the blanks on a short, one-size-fits-all form. The idea of downloading a quick form that you can complete at home is appealing. And these services often provide glowing testimonials about how previous customers feel better knowing that their affairs are in order.
But what if you have questions about what might be best for your situation? What if there is a better option for what you want to do? These services provide you with a website that gives you a general overview of the law, even though the information it contains is often not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. These services usually state that they are not a substitute for an attorney’s advice.
While these services have their place, the problem is that everyone’s situation is unique, and no two people are alike. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the right choice. If serious legal mistakes are made, you will never know because these mistakes will not become apparent until you pass away. And the people left to deal with the mistakes are probably the people you were trying to protect.
Consumer Reports has compared various products available, concluding that “do-it-yourself” websites are no match for a licensed attorney. Customized estate planning does not have to be expensive. I offer a complimentary consultation to give you a reasonable estimate of what it will cost to complete your estate planning.
How often should I have my estate plan reviewed?
Estate plans should evolve and change as your life evolves and changes. Significant life changes often prompt the need to have your estate plan reviewed. Some examples might be a change in marital status, having another child, moving to another state, having a child with special needs, purchasing another home, or coming into an inheritance. Aside from significant life changes, the laws governing estate planning and federal estate tax exemption (which determines the amount you may leave to your heirs free of federal tax) change frequently. It is always a good idea to review your estate plan every few years to determine what, if any, changes are needed.
Will gift and death taxes impact my estate planning?
For 2021, you can gift up to $15,000 per person per year before you are required to file a gift tax return. This is called the annual gift tax exclusion amount. There are ways to give more than $15,000 to a person without filing a gift tax return. For example, you might be able to pay a person’s medical expenses or tuition directly without counting the amount you pay as a gift. You can also give as much as you want to your spouse without having to file a gift tax return.
If you have to file a gift tax return, you may not have to pay any tax. The amount that your gift exceeds the $15,000 annual limit is applied to your lifetime gift/estate tax exemption. For 2021, the exemption amount is $11.58 million per person.