Start 2017 Off Right – Estate Planning with an Eye to Retirement

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

You know this: people spend more time planning vacations than they do their finances or retirement. The beginning of the new year is an excellent time to take a comprehensive review of what you have—both assets and liabilities—to prepare for the year ahead and any financial milestones or challenges you are facing, from marriage, divorce, buying a home, welcoming a new baby to the family or retirement.

Here are some important financial steps to take  at the start of 2017.

Take financial inventory. Consider aggregating your accounts and identifying what you have, such as IRAs, bank accounts, and life insurance. You should take an inventory of your debt and determine how you will pay it off in 2017.

Review your estate plan. OK, it’s not that exciting, but it’s important.  If you fail to plan properly, and something unfortunate happens, your family may be left unprepared. It’s critical to have control over what will happen to everything that you leave behind.

Update your beneficiary forms. This is a task that should be reviewed periodically—especially if you’ve been married or divorced, had children or retired in recent years. A designated beneficiary on an insurance policy or an IRA has precedence over a will or a trust. As a result, it’s important to make adjustments after major life changes.

Make some smart tax moves. You should know how the taxes work on your 401(k)s and IRAs, so take a look to be certain you’re saving effectively. The maximum annual contribution to a 401(k) is $18,000 or $24,000 if you’re over 50.

You should also remember that you can gift as much as $14,000 per person annually to as many people as you’d like without a gift tax liability. In addition, with any tax planning for retirement, you might think about converting your retirement money through a Roth IRA conversion ladder. Money transferred from a traditional IRA to a Roth is tax- and penalty-free after paying taxes on the conversion.

Evaluate your path to retirement. Retirement planning is important at every stage of life, so be pro-active. If you create a plan, it can hold you accountable. It is important to speak with a qualified estate planning attorney. Don’t just “set it and forget it.” Stay on top of issues and continually monitor the situation.

If retirement is in the near future, or if you’re planning to retire early, start to have discussions about identifying guaranteed income, social security, your pension options, and how to utilize any or all of them into your overall income plan, along with the tax consequences.

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.