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The Poor Economy May Be Reason to Amend Your Estate Plan

With the recent downturn in the economy, San Diego has been one of the hardest hit with declining property values and unemployment. According to the Feds, the states in a full recession are California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. California has reached 11%unemployment and San Diego is in the top five cities for decline in property values. Because of these factors, San Diegans may need to review their estate plan and possibly amend their will or trust.

Suppose your trust leaves a cash bequest to a particular beneficiary, maybe a charity, and then divides the rest of your estate into percentages. When the value of your assets goes down, because of lower real property values or a decline in your investments, that in turn will affect the amount other beneficiaries receive as a percentages. As an example suppose an individual decided to leave $100,000 to his favorite charity and the rest of his estate is to be divided between his four children. The trust was done at a time when the rest of his estate had a value of $1 million. With the problems in the economy, now the estate is only worth $700,000. Instead of each child receiving 1/4 of $1 million, they will be receiving 1/4 of $600,000. Since the cash bequest to the charity comes out of estate before the rest of the estate is divided, the children are now going to have a $100,000 per child reduction. Instead of each child inheriting $250,000, they will only inherit $150,000. The trustor may want to rethink the amount of the cash bequest to charity and amend his trust accordingly.

Another example is where you leave one child your trust assets and other children non-trust assets such as an insurance policy. The amount of the life insurance proceeds are not going to change because of the economy but the trust assets very well may. If your goal is to treat all your children equally, then maybe your trust should be amended.

The main thing is to review your trust or other estate plan periodically. Also review your assets and their current value to see if your estate plan still makes sense and fulfills your goals. Look for a later post on how the federal estate exemptions for 2010 and 2011 may affect your estate plan. We are happy to answer any questions or review your existing documents to see if they need to be amended. Contact us if we can help.

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