Here is a quick checklist of estate planning items that serves as a general checkup on plans now in place, as well as potential changes due to expected changes in estate tax laws scheduled for 2010 and 2011:
If you can answer yes to all of the following items, you are in great shape.
1. I know who are my current personal representatives and trustees and they should outlive me.
2. I have a current (within five years) durable power of attorney, naming a person I trust to sign my name to anything in the world.
3. I have a current (within five years) living will health-care proxy, naming a person I trust to make health-care decisions for me and to “pull the plug” if I am in a permanent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.
4. I have a current HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release. In general, a covered entity must obtain the individual’s consent; that is, written authorization for any use or disclosure of protected health information to persons other than the patient, such as a spouse, child, relative, attorney, trustee or another person or institution.
If you wish persons other than yourself to have access to any of your medical information, you must provide each medical facility and physician with a form of written consent designating the persons as a “personal representative(s)” who may request and receive such information.
5. I have a trust with special provisions to cover the federal estate tax exemption of $3.5 million and additional special provisions if I own real estate in another state — like Massachusetts, which has an estate tax exemption of only $1 million. If your trust has not been recently updated, it may have only the provisions to cover the federal exemption; and if you own real estate in another state, your estate may be taxed in the other state.
6. The scheduled change in federal estate tax exemption will not affect how my trust is divided between my surviving spouse and children of this and/or prior marriages. This can be very important in second marriage situations with separate sets of children.
7. If I have a very large life insurance policy, then I have at least discussed having life insurance irrevocable trust to keep my life insurance from being subject to estate taxes.
8. I have done everything on my lawyer’s checklist with regard to establishing my domicile in Florida, and I continue to do so (like voting, renewing licenses, etc.).
If any of your answers are no, you may wish to call your estate planning lawyer for an appointment to review your situation.
Attorney Alan S. Novick of Naples and New Bedford, Mass., has been certified as a Florida bar wills, trusts and estates lawyer. Novick is a member of the Massachusetts Bar and the Florida Bar. His Florida practice is limited to probate, estate and tax planning. Contact him at email@example.com. The information provided in these columns is for general information and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. Readers must consult your own attorney for specific legal advice.