Phew, tax season is done! Tax returns are filed, or maybe they are on extension. While you may be quick to diligently pack them away with prior year’s returns, don’t do so quite yet!

Right now is probably the closest you will be to all your finances, and is an optimal time to take a step back to review whether your finances are aligned with your estate plan wishes. Below is a mental checklist I employ with my client’s after every tax season, that may be helpful for you!


  • Confirm the beneficiaries on retirement (and other beneficiary designated accounts) are current. All too often individuals will assume their primary and contingent beneficiaries are current. However, their intentions may not be reflected on the account for various reasons (plan administrative issues, paperwork submitted incomplete, etc.). Something so simple, if not reviewed, can have a huge impact on the future division of the account funds to its beneficiaries and unintended (sometimes significant) tax consequences. Assets passed directly to a named beneficiary have the additional benefit of avoiding probate, which can be an expensive and long process.
  • Review how financial accounts and real property are titled. Change in marital status, accumulation of assets and updated estate plan strategies are all examples of why you may need to review the titling of your assets. There are a variety of ways assets can be titled: individual, joint, Payable On Death/Transfer On Death and in the name of a trust or corporation. While there are numerous options available, they should be in line with your estate plan.
  • Plan for next-generation transfer of wealth. Consider optimizing taxes using long-term strategies such as holding onto highly appreciated stock for your lifetime. This strategy allows the next generation to inherit assets and receive a step-up in basis, which avoids paying capital gains taxes on the appreciated stock. Another possible strategy, depending on your income, is contributing to a deferred tax account such as a Roth 401(k) or Roth Individual Retirement Account. Moving funds into these types of account may generate tax free distributions for you in retirement, and for your beneficiaries inheriting the account.
  • Review the Power of Attorney form. Remember, these are very powerful documents, but everyone should have a Power of Attorney Form (or similar legal document) naming a responsible and trusted individual as their agent for if they were to become incapacitated. Over time, circumstances may change for both yourself and the named agent(s). Therefore, it is important to re-evaluate every few years.
  • Evaluate the need for a Trust (or other succession employed entities), with the help of an Estate Plan Attorney. Of course, there are many reasons why an attorney, working with their client’s financial advisor, may recommend a Trust or entity for succession plan purposes. However, if you have a plan in place and you find that many of your accounts are not retitled due to the complexities around your existing plan, you will want to consult your attorney further. Furthermore, may want to discuss the need for establishing a succession plan if you have assets that may complicate the probate process or need to limit risks for high tax liability.
  • Review how current and potential changes to tax and other laws may affect the estate plan. If you watch or read the news, you know that laws around finances are always up for debate. As a result, planning strategies are always evolving, and a change in financial circumstances could drastically impact the outcome of a previously tailored plan. Since the devil is in the details, it’s important to consult with your financial advisor and even your estate plan attorney before you make any changes to ensure your plan is current.


Here at JGUA, we aim to be proactive in our client’s financial lives. Interested in learning more about our services, contact us at 607-936-3785.