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A beneficiary designation or joint title can override your will

Inattention to beneficiary designations and jointly titled assets can quickly unravel your estate plan. Suppose, for example, that your will provides for all of your property to be divided equally among your three children. But what if your IRA, which names the oldest child as beneficiary, accounts for half of the estate? In that case, the oldest child will inherit half of your estate plus a one-third share of the remaining assets — hardly equal.

The 2021 gift tax return deadline is almost here, too

April 18, 2022, is the deadline for filing your federal income tax return. Keep in mind that the gift tax return deadline is on the very same date. So, if you made large gifts to family members or heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file Form 709.

Filing requirements

Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2021 if, during the tax year, you made gifts that exceeded the $15,000-per-recipient annual gift tax exclusion (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse). (For 2022, the exclusion amount has increased to $16,000 per recipient or $32,000 if you split gifts with your spouse.

Avoiding undue influence claims

A primary purpose of estate planning is to ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes after you die. But if a family member challenges the plan, that purpose may be defeated. If the challenge is successful, a judge will decide who’ll inherit your property.