With the end of the year approaching in a month, it's a good time to take stock of a few things before you start worrying about resolutions for the New Year. Since most of the year is in the rearview mirror, you can evaluate what worked and what did not in your family, business, organization, etc. I'm not going to attempt an exhaustive list of things year-end due diligence items, but I am going to throw out a few ideas to consider:
Check Your UM Limits When you Renew Auto Coverage
Uninsured (or underinsured) motorist coverage (UM) is the part of your car insurance that might compensate you for injuries caused by another driver if the other driver has insufficient liability insurance. Liability coverage is what pays for damages caused by you. If you try to save money by waiving UM coverage or getting the minimum amount, you are going to be sorry if you are injured in a wreck caused by another driver. Unless the at-fault driver is a high-net-worth person or is driving a Wal-Mart truck, chances are that they won't have enough liability insurance to truly compensate you. I've represented or met with a number of people who were hurt in wrecks caused by someone with only $25,000.00 in liability coverage. If you are familiar with how much medical treatment costs, you know that $25k won't go very far. What's worse is that there are an unbelievable number of people driving without any liability insurance at all. I'm the Municipal Court Judge in Vidalia, and we probably have 5-10 "no insurance" guilty pleas every month. I am sure there are more uninsured drivers that don't get caught. If you or your family member get hit by an uninsured or minimally covered driver, who is going to pay for your injuries? You will, of course. You can get the best personal injury lawyer in the world and sue the at-fault driver for millions, but if they aren't either rich or well-insured, you won't be able to get blood out of a turnip. They'll likely file for bankruptcy, and you'll be out of luck. Talk to your insurance agent and be sure you have enough UM coverage (and make it "added on") to help you out if you are ever in an accident that is not your fault.
Evaluate your Tax Situation
I get a report from my accountant every year in November on steps I can take to reduce my tax liability for the year that is ending. In a few months, you'll be filing your 2022 taxes, and if you had a good year, you might be writing a big check to the IRS. If you wait until filing time to calculate your tax liability, it'll be too late to do anything about the bottom line. As long as there is time left in 2022, there may be things you can control (like timing certain expenses, retirement contributions and charitable donations, or managing when you collect bills) that will reduce your tax liability for 2022. In short, if you don't want a surprise on your tax bill in April, go ahead and talk to your accountant and make a plan for mitigating your tax liability. You might also learn a few things that will help you with your planning for 2023.
Find and Review Your Legal Documents
If you have a will, power of attorney, advance directive, trust, or an important contract or business document, make sure you know where it is. If your folks can't find it when it's needed, it will be worthless. I've probably said this to you before, but a copy of a will often cannot be probated because you are generally required to have the original. Therefore you should tell a trusted loved one where it is. You would not believe how often people lose important documents and then never do anything about it. If you find your old documents, it's a great time to review them and make sure they are updated and protect you and your family in a way that makes you comfortable. If you're not happy with what you've got, there's a good resolution for you in 2023.
If you missed any of my prior newsletters, be sure to check the archives on our website.