The Key to Successful Estate Planning

The Key to Successful Estate Planning

Why just having a plan isn't enough

Until recently, any discussion of estate planning typically focused on strategies to minimize estate taxes. Changes to the estate tax system over the last decade have removed those concerns for all but those with considerable wealth, but that doesn't mean estate planning – and more generally, managing your personal affairs at the end of your life – is any less important. In some cases, a lack of planning can even lead to a substantial family legacy disappearing in short order – some have speculated most family wealth is lost before it reaches a fourth generation. Fortunately, there are many strategies.

Calendar Icon Planning Calendar


  • Time for a retirement plan check-up? Even though 401(k) Day was at the beginning of the month, the fall is always a good time to look at your retirement assets. Make sure your asset allocation is consistent with your goals and, if necessary, rebalance your investments.
  • Maximize your work benefits. Decisions you make about your health benefits can impact your finances all year. Make sure you have the information you need before you submit your selections. This is also a good time to review the beneficiary forms on your retirement accounts.
  • Put any year-end tax plans in motion. Start talking to your tax advisor about steps you may be able to take to lower your tax bill for 2014.


  • Look at your IRA. If you converted to a Roth IRA in 2013 and it has since fallen in value, you can recharacterize that conversion until October 15 and reclaim the taxes you paid on the higher amount.

    October 15 is also the deadline for self-employed persons or small employers to establish a SIMPLE IRA for 2014.
  • Pay your taxes. If you filed for an extension on your 2013 federal income taxes, October 15 is the final deadline to file your return.
  • Review your estate plan. If you have a living will and power of attorney, make sure they still reflect your wishes and the current status of your family.


  • Make your charitable donations. November is Giving Month. Direct donations of cash, material goods or investments can all make a difference in people’s lives and your 2014 tax liability. You might also consider contributing to a child’s or grandchild’s 529 education savings plan.

    November 28 is the last day you can sell shares of a stock for a loss and still acquire new shares of the same position before the end of the year without triggering the wash sale rules.
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