This Is the New Year

notepad that reads "year in review"

The New Year is the time many of us make resolutions and work on becoming our best selves. Folks all over the country resolve to eat better, lose a few pounds, rekindle old relationships, or finally clean out that room over the garage that we’ve been meaning to convert into a home office. These are all laudable resolutions, but we here at Johnson, Gasink & Baxter, LLP would like to remind you of another resolution that is worthy of consideration - reviewing your individual estate plan.

The start of the year marks the perfect time to sit down and reflect on the previous year and determine what, if any, changes in circumstance require you to modify your estate plan. It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, you should consider your estate plan to be a living, breathing document. A healthy estate plan changes in response to time and circumstances. Reflect on the significant events of this past year. Were there any births? Deaths? Marriages? Divorces? If so, you most likely need to revisit your estate plan.

Review Your Estate Plan

At a minimum, when reviewing your estate plan, you should evaluate the plan holistically. Does the Personal Representative named in your will still make sense? For those individuals with trusts, are your Successor Trustees (both Incapacity and Death) still practical? It is also a good idea to look at your Agent named under your financial Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). Do you still trust your Agent to make decisions for you if you should find yourself unable to do so? How old is your DPOA? If it is five or more years old, we recommend drafting a new document. Does your Health Care Agent know your wishes with respect to your medical care? Answering these questions will keep your estate plan in top condition.

The beginning of the year is also a good time to check beneficiary designations on all assets. Review beneficiary and contingent beneficiary designations and ensure those designations are still right for you. Likewise, take time to review beneficiaries named in your estate plan and make sure those designations still reflect your desires. For individuals with trusts, it is critically important to ensure your trust is properly funded in order to take full advantage of the protections provided by the document.

Check in with Others

In addition to reviewing your own estate planning documents, consider asking your grandparents, parents, or anyone else who has named you as a trustee or personal representative in their documents about their estate plan. Ensure you fully understand their wishes and that their selection is still appropriate. When is the last time they reviewed their documents? Do they need an update? As with most things, clear communication is the key to success. While discussing estate planning with loved ones may be uncomfortable, a little discomfort up front can save significant heartache and uncertainty on the back end.

As well as reviewing your estate plan, an assessment of your finances with your financial planning professional might be in order. Have your financial goals changed? Has there been a material change in circumstance? Did you retire? Did a loved one pass away? Do you have sufficient insurance (life, disability, long-term care, or otherwise)? A yearly review of your financial health will help you achieve your goals while minimizing hiccups along the way.

IRS Updates

Finally, for the 2019 tax year, the IRS has some good news for high wealth individuals. The estate and gift tax exemption has increased from $11.18 million to $11.4 million for individuals and $22.36 million to $22.8 million for couples. The annual gift exclusion amount remains $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for couples per gift recipient per year. Better yet, the IRS will not claw back any gifts made under the current law when it expires in 2025, allowing individuals to lock-in the current exemption amount.

As always, we at Johnson, Gasink & Baxter, LLP are here to help you achieve your estate planning goals. If you want us to review your estate planning documents or if you want to make changes, contact us to schedule an appointment.

TrustGuard™ 2019

TrustGuard™ renewal enrollment for 2019 is now open. TrustGuard™ is for our clients who are serious about protecting their investment in a Trust-based estate plan with an annual review of the plan. The annual fee includes a review of your trust plan and trust funding and annual updates. We sent an enrollment invitation both to clients who were paid TrustGuard™ members in 2018 and those whose trusts were signed in 2018.

Enrollment for the 2019 TrustGuard™ period ends on February 28, 2019. JGB clients who do not re-enroll during the enrollment period will not have another opportunity to re-enter into the program.

Participation in TrustGuard™ is entirely voluntary. The program fee is billed at an annual flat rate. Any JGB clients not enrolled in TrustGuard™ will pay for services covered by TrustGuard™ at our standard rates. If you pay your TrustGuard™ enrollment fee before February 1, 2019, you pay the reduced rate of $600.00. Enrollments paid after February 1, 2019, but before February 28, 2019, will be subject to the full TrustGuard™ fee of $700.00. Contact our office for a TrustGuard™ Enrollment Form.


Did you know that the attorneys at Johnson, Gasink and Baxter, LLP have built their practice by working with great clients like you? We are now offering small estate planning classes for clients and their friends. Class attendees will learn about their estate planning options, the dangers and expense of probate, and how to effectively utilize a Revocable Living Trust plan. The classes are offered at the following dates and locations:

  • Our Jan. 22nd classes at our Williamsburg office are full.
  • Feb. 12th at 7:00 at our Richmond office. (Our 2:00 is full.)
  • Mar. 12th at 2:00 and 7:00 at our Virginia Beach office
  • Apr. 9th at 2:00 and 7:00 at our Williamsburg office.

Don't let something happen to your friends and loved ones without proper estate planning in place! Please contact Brooke Heilesen at 1 877 790 4555 to reserve a spot in a class.

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