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Estate Planning Year-End Checklist: Five Things to Do Before December 31st

We're approaching the holiday season and the end of another year. If you're like most people, you probably have several goals to get off your to-do list before the new year. While you're putting in the effort to achieve your end-of-year objectives, how about you consider investing in your estate plan? Your estate plan protects the financial future of your family and loved ones when you're no longer here. As the year comes to an end, here are five things you should consider ticking off your estate planning checklist:

  1. Review Your Estate Plan

You've probably begun the estate planning process but put it on hold for some reason. Maybe you became too busy with career commitments or were confused about how to split your assets. Regardless of the reason, the end of the year provides an excellent time to finally take stock and review your estate planning priorities. Focusing on a simple yet effective plan with wills and powers of attorney can be critical in times of need.

  1. Reconsider Your Beneficiaries

If you've previously named beneficiaries in your documents, it might be time to review your decision, especially if you included a divorced spouse or deceased family member. If the beneficiary is incapacitated, it's best to set up a trust for them and name the trust as beneficiary. This way, you can protect their inheritance. This strategy is also helpful if your beneficiary is a minor.

  1. Evaluate Your Assets

If you've invested in more assets since the initial preparation of your estate plan, it may be time to review your estate plan to confirm these assets are transferred as per your estate plan. This step could prove to be crucial in avoiding probate.  Your family could potentially struggle to gain control of such assets if transfers weren’t made properly. 

  1. Consider the Estate Tax Exemption

The federal estate tax exemption is $12.06 million as of 2022. However, this figure could possibly revert to its pre-2018 amount of $5 million by 2026. It could even be less, depending on the US Congress. The 2022 NYS estate tax exemption amount is $6,110,000.00. Much lower than at the federal level. You can start to plan for a possible lower exemption amount now. In addition, take advantage of giving tax-free gifts, currently at $16,000.00 per person, to loved ones annually. You can leverage these gifts to reduce your estate and potentially protect your family from estate taxes.

  1. Talk to Your Family About Your Estate Plans

Talking to your family about your estate plans doesn't mean showing them your will or financial statement. Instead, it means informing them about general plans for your assets and why you're taking such steps. Family conflict over estate planning is common after a benefactor dies. Your loved ones may not readily accept the decisions you've made for your assets on their behalf. However, discussing plans with them provides an opportunity to get them on the same page with you.


While we often want to avoid the subject of an estate plan because it reminds us of the end of our lives, it's still the best way to protect your family's financial future when you're no longer alive. As such, you should take advantage of the end of the year to evaluate and complete your estate plan. The first and most crucial step is hiring a reliable estate planning attorney. Contact us today to discover more about how we can assist you.