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Time for your midlife oil change? Your coronavirus checklist

For most of us, when and whether we get the coronavirus shot or shots on time/in time is yet to be determined. So far, in most states, not so good!

Naturally most politicians have taken care of themselves. That’s what they do! Now, they tell us we are next in line.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Either way, there are some things you can and should do. Like now!

Some experts say this is the beginning of the end of the battle to tame the virus, and that by year end, all will be well. Others say it is just the end of the beginning with a long struggle ahead.

Regardless of which side turns out to be correct, most of us are still very much in harm’s way. Most federal workers and retirees have enough — life insurance, an annuity, property — to be considered an estate. Yet fewer than 50% of the people who should have an estate plan have one. Or it may consist of something you downloaded, filled out and filed away. Or perhaps in your efforts to forget a past marriage, you have left your former spouse everything.

Help is just a click away. My guest on today’s Your Turn radio show (10 a.m. EST) is Tom O’Rourke. He’s a tax specialist and estate attorney. And a former IRS lawyer and Vietnam vet. Most of his clients are current or former feds who — long before the pandemic — decided to get some advice and work up a plan. While few of us know the answers, its also true that most of us don’t know the questions we should ask. Which is where we (Tom actually will do the heavy lifting) come in. Listen live if you can streaming here or on the radio at 1500 AM in the D.C. area. You can also catch the show later anytime. It will be archived on our home page. Meantime, here are some of the life-event/estate questions you should ask about. We’ll give you the answers.

A common question that estate planners get is, “Now that I have a plan, how often do I need to review or change it?”

In general, an estate plan needs to be revised when there is a change in the law or your life that affects your plan. Your advisers (financial planner, lawyer or tax adviser) should advise you of any changes in the law that may have an impact on your plan. Your advisers, however, may not be aware of any changes in your life that could require a change in your plan. The following are some of the life events that require you to at least review you plan and determine whether a change is required. Here’s your 11 point checklist from Tom:

  1. A change in marital status. Marital status has a highly significant impact on an estate plan. Virtually all states have a spousal inheritance statutes that may affect your existing estate plan. If there is a change in your marital status you need to make your estate plan reflects this. Moreover, for many individuals their “estate” consists of items for which they designate a beneficiary (retirement benefits, tax deferred account, or life insurance). Any existing beneficiary designations need to be reviewed or revised to reflect your new marital status.
  2. Birth of a child. The birth of a child should require you to think about how and by whom will the child be cared for. You need to name a guardian for the child. In addition, you want to make sure that any assets that will be used for the child’s benefit are held and managed wisely until the child reaches an age when he/she can manage independently. Thus, your estate plan may need to be modified.
  3. Change in your job. For many individuals their “estate” is comprised largely of job related benefits such as insurance, pensions plans, and tax deferred account. You need to discuss such benefit changes with your estate and financial planner.
  4. Sending a child to college. Many times a child starts college around the time they reach age 18 which is the age of majority in most states. Thus, you, as their parent, no longer has the legal authority to act on their behalf. It is advisable to have your children execute powers of attorney to allow you to act on their behalf?
  5. Marriage of your child. The marriage of a child may or may not cause you to reconsider your estate plan. Are you concerned about a possible divorce and having your assets pass to your former son or daughter in law?
  6. Birth of grandchildren. Should you revise your estate plan to insure that you provide some help to the grandchild to pay for education expenses, or possibly the purchase of a home?
  7. As part of your overall retirement planning it is advisable to discuss how your life in retirement may change your estate plan.
  8. You or a member of your family become disabled.
  9. Moving to a different state. A new state may have laws that could impact your estate plan. This should be discussed with an estate planner in your new home.
  10. Death of a spouse or a loved one. Frequently your spouse is the primary beneficiary under your plan and is also the agent you have named to act on your behalf. Revising you plan is an absolute must in many situations.
  11. Any other matter that could have an impact of your estate plan. For example, a person named in your estate plan with whom you no longer have close relationship.

Finally, O’Rourke says it is It is always advisable to review your plan periodically (at least every three years) to insure that it continues to address your goals.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

In 1775, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster General. The first Postmaster General of the new United States of America was Samuel Osgood. The position was appointed by the President until 1971, when the Post Office Department was reorganized into the Postal Service. The office of Postmaster General was removed from the Cabinet and Postmasters General have been named by the Board of Governors of the Postal Service since.

Source: National Postal Museum

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