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Most of us are not born planners. Still, we know we owe it to our loved ones to make our wishes known, and to put documentation in place that will give effect to our wishes. If you've been putting off formalizing your plans, or can't remember the last time you reviewed your existing estate plan documents - here's a list of reasons to make this year a productive planning year. You can do it, and here's a countdown to help you get started:

5. If your kids aren't kids anymore and your Will was created when they were still under the age of 18, chances are you need to revise your plans. You now have a better sense of the kids' needs and interests as an adult, and no longer need to designate a guardian or trustee for them. Plus, there might even be grand kids or great-grand kids now that you also want to provide for!

4. If you have welcomed or lost family members through marriage, birth, death or divorce, it's a good time to think about your wishes and whether your current plans reflect those wishes. You should be aware that even if you have never completed a Last Will and Testament or Living Trust, you have an estate plan by default, determined by the laws of the state where you live. Don't get stuck with a plan by default!

3. With the new tax law changes, very few estates will have to pay federal estate tax, but some states have a much lower threshold for state estate tax. In Washington State, if your net worth is approaching or exceeds the $2.19 million exemption amount, then you may want to talk with an attorney or tax advisor to make plans now to avoid having estate tax liability down the road - many, many years down the road, of course!

2. You realize that there are charitable organizations that have been important to you and your family, and you would like to make future gifts to support those organizations. There are some very simple ways to include charitable gifts in your estate - including beneficiary designations, which don't require an attorney. For many assets, beneficiary designations can be changed online in 10 minutes or less. However, you may want to speak with a professional advisor to determine which assets to use, and how your philanthropic plans can best fit into your overall estate plan.

1. Because we're here to help! Whether you need recommendations for an estate planning attorney, or other advisors, or you just want some encouragement, we can help you get started and cheer you on! You can thank us later after you realize you are sleeping much better with your plans completed and up-to-date. Call the Office of Planned Giving at 206-296-6103, or email Heather Williams at [email protected].