A few things to do before the New Year

Its a busy time of year.   The holidays can seem like a mad dash.  Shopping and attending festive events keeps us on our toes and if you are like me your "to-do" list seems to grow in length, despite all the lines I've already crossed off.  Not to add pressure to your season of cheer but if you take the time to do these things now - you'll start the New Year ahead of the game! 1.  Charitable donations — If you need a tax deduction in 2013, now’s the time to make that charitable contribution.  Now is also the time to sort out clutter and get it your favorite charity thrift store.  Save your receipts.

2.  Annual exclusion gifts — An individual can give up to $14,000 per donee in 2013 without impacting his or her lifetime or estate exclusion. A married couple can give $28,000 per donee. Be careful if you use a check to make annual exclusion gifts because, unlike charitable donations, if the gift-check is cashed after Jan. 1, the date of the gift will not relate back to the date of its delivery. It will be deemed to be a gift given in 2014.

3.  Review your testamentary documents.  Is your estate plan still appropriate for your situation and  are your fiduciary choices for personal representative and agents under your powers of attorney, legal guardian, and trustees still appropriate? If so great. If not the holidays are a time spent with family and friends - who might be a better choice?

4.  Review beneficiary designations — Retirement plans and insurance policies are controlled by beneficiary designations, not your will or revocable trust. It is important to ensure that your beneficiary designations are consistent with the provisions of your will, and vice versa.

5.  Update your important documents locator and contacts before you head off for that holiday trip.