The other day, while discussing various news topics, I had a friend of mine ask me what are the top legal tips for the end of the year. My friend, a reporter at an area television station, was looking for some tips to pass along to her viewers.
Even though the new year has started, you can take this time as an opportunity to evaluate where you are and how you want to move forward. So here are a few tips that may or may not apply to your situation.
1.) Check and Update Your Legal Documents. The holidays can be a stressful time. The winter months can be amongst the deadliest of the year according to at least one report. As such, I like to remind people to check and update those emergency documents, such as wills, powers of attorneys, and living wills. Often times, I find that individuals may have these documents, but that they are outdated -- for example, the father who left all of his belongings to a daughter who had passed away.
In other cases, I have found where people just do not have the documents. I have often heard "oh, I'm healthy, and I'll get around to that later" -- and then later never comes.
In other cases, especially with young people, they say "I don't need a will -- I'm young and don't have anything." The problem is that even young people often have bank accounts, IRAs or other accounts -- including last paychecks -- that need to be dealt with.
By having the documents prepared and available, you can spare your loved ones needless grief and expense if something happens to you. You can often download these forms from various websites, but can also consult an attorney to put together the packets for you.
2.) Check and Update Your Financial Documents. Along the same lines, the start of a new year is an excellent time to check and update your financial documents. For example, check your financial accounts to make sure that they have updated information, such as addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Also, check to make sure that you have updated information regarding beneficiaries on insurance policies.
For example, if you were recently divorced, you should make sure that unless your court orders says otherwise, your former spouse is removed from your policies.
Additionally, the end of the year is the perfect time to go through your credit card and bank statements and 'declutter.' For example, if you got a razor-of-the-month club that you never use, now is an excellent time to call up and cancel -- so you're not continuing to pay for it in 2018. It's also an excellent time to check for credit card fraud or unauthorized purchases on your statements.
3.) Check for Tax Tips for Next Year. With the new tax law now going into effect, it is an excellent time to talk to your tax accountant and/or lawyer to discuss how to best set up your taxes. It's too late to adjust your numbers for 2017, but by planning ahead, you can potentially save thousands of dollars on your 2018 taxes.
For example, if you are currently running a home enterprise, would it be beneficial to incorporate as a LLC or other entity? Also, should you be making donations or IRA/529 contributions this year -- as opposed to waiting until after the new year -- or vice versa?
A skilled accountant can help you address many of the tax issues. VanHo Law is setting up our Entrepreneur Law practice, and would be happy to discuss the various legal options with you. By starting out the new year fresh, you can make next year's taxes easier and take the maximum advantage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.
While there are a number of other steps you can take to protect yourself this year, these are a few that apply to most people.
As always, if you believe that we can be of assistance with your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us at (330) 653-8511.