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Harvest Season: Reaping the Benefits of a Well-Planned Estate

Town Law Publishing Aug. 22, 2023

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The arrival of fall heralds a season of harvest, a time when the benefits of planting, nurturing, and carefully tending to gardens and fields become manifest. Just like a well-tended crop yields a bountiful harvest, a carefully planned estate provides peace of mind and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. As the leaves change and the air gets cooler, let's explore why autumn is an opportune moment to invest your efforts in estate planning.

The Psychological Shift of Autumn

Something about the fall season makes many of us more reflective. Perhaps it's the closing of another year, or the transition from the fast-paced activities of summer to quieter, more introspective moments. This psychological shift often nudges people into thinking about their futures, making it a prime time to examine and update estate plans.

Reflecting on Life Changes

Summer vacations have ended, kids are back in school, and major holidays are just around the corner. This is an excellent period to reflect on any life changes—marriages, divorces, new children, or even career shifts—that may require adjustments to your existing estate plans.

Updating Wills and Trusts

If you've already drafted a will or established a trust, fall is a great time to review them. Tax laws may have changed, or perhaps your assets have seen a substantial increase or decrease. An up-to-date will or trust ensures that there are no hiccups or legal challenges to carrying out your wishes when the time comes.

Importance of Health Care Directives

The advent of flu season and the potential challenges posed by wintertime illnesses make autumn an ideal period to review and update your health care directives. Ensure that your Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney, and Do-Not-Resuscitate orders are current and clearly articulate your wishes.

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Beneficiary Designations

The close of the year often brings with it financial account reviews. While doing so, it's beneficial to double-check beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, insurance policies, and other assets. Outdated beneficiary information can lead to unintended consequences, and updating these designations is usually a straightforward process.

Tax Planning and Philanthropy

Fall brings us closer to year-end tax considerations. It’s a good time to consult with tax advisors to understand how your estate could be affected by Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax or federal estate tax. This is also the season of giving, making it ideal to contemplate any charitable donations you might wish to incorporate into your estate plan.

Legal Consultations: Making the Complex Simple

With the holiday season approaching, attorneys may offer promotional consultations or estate planning packages. Take advantage of these to establish or review your estate plan. Professional guidance can simplify the complex world of estate law, ensuring you reap the most benefits from your carefully cultivated assets.

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Reaping the Fruits of Your Labor

Just as harvest season rewards farmers for their hard work and diligence, a well-planned estate provides peace of mind and financial security to your loved ones. It may not be a subject that everyone enjoys contemplating, but like the prudent farmer, the results are worth the effort.

The changing leaves and cooling air can inspire us to make meaningful changes in our lives. As the season of harvest arrives, consider sowing the seeds of a well-organized, legally secure estate plan. It is not just about planning for the end; it's about ensuring a legacy that reflects your wishes and provides for those you care about most. Just like a bountiful harvest, a well-planned estate is a gift that keeps on giving.