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End-of-year reviews may include one's estate planning documents

An estate plan for a California resident is a dynamic program that continues to change and grow with the individual's family and financial goals and needs. Estate planning is a dynamic process that includes areas of preparation for the future and even for the maintenance of one's current finances. With living trusts, for example, one's assets may be turned over to a trust that will function in accordance with the maker's wishes while the maker is still alive.

Estate planning also includes setting up a design for the distribution of one's assets through testamentary documents, such as a last will and testament. That document may play a minor role where the maker of the will has provided for the bulk of the estate to pass by way of the living trust mechanism. However, in many cases, the individual will prepare a will and make major distributions at the time of death through the probate process.

For those who have done no planning, this may be an ideal time of year to obtain a consultation with an estate planning attorney. For those who have a plan, it is a convenient time for many people to review their existing estate plans to determine whether they need changes. Where the person's life has changed in the past year or since the last review, relevant changes in beneficiary designations should be made without further delay.

In addition, appointments of executors, trustees and other representatives must be reviewed to determine if they are all up-to-date and in accordance with the maker's wishes. Where assets have been sold or new ones acquired, changes in estate documents or in living trusts may be necessary. It is safest to accomplish any such documentary changes in coordination with one's estate planning attorney. In that way, the program will remain updated, compliant with California law, and relevant to all of the maker's current wishes and needs.

Source:, "Year-End Estate Planning Tasks to Tackle Now", Rebecca Lake, Nov. 27, 2017

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