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Even a rock-solid estate plan isn't set in stone

If you think back over the past five years, you can probably list numerous changes that have taken place in your family.

Perhaps a son or daughter got married or divorced. Maybe you and your spouse moved to another state or decided to purchase a vacation home. Even if you and your loved ones carried on without a major alteration, you must agree that the national climate has changed, especially laws regarding taxes.

In the face of these changes, you may have overlooked one thing that hasn't changed: your estate plan. If you established your estate plan more than five years ago and haven't revisited it, you may find that many of the decisions you made then are obsolete.

What are the areas of my estate plan that may require revision?

Revising your estate plan begins with a careful review of all the documents included. Putting off this important work may leave your heirs questioning your decisions and perhaps engaging in legal – or at least personal – disputes over their inheritances. Some important factors to consider include the following:

  • Is there a way to revise your plan to avoid estate taxes?
  • Do the beneficiaries on your documents accurate reflect your wishes?
  • Have you added contingent beneficiaries to your documents?
  • Have you updated the beneficiaries on any assets not covered by your will, such as an IRA or insurance policy?
  • Do you have a financial and medical durable power of attorney?
  • Do all the titles on your assets (home, insurance policies, annuities etc.) match the titles on your trusts?
  • Has your family structure changed in any way that would affect the designation of beneficiaries?

Many people in Louisiana overlook these changes in their families, but those may have unexpected consequences at the distribution of your estate. For example, you may have named a son-in-law or daughter-in-law as a beneficiary, but your child has since divorced. The former in-law still has claim to part of your estate if you fail to remove his or her name from the documents. Similarly, if you have left a little something to grandchildren, those born, adopted or welcomed by marriage after you made your will may be inadvertently left out.

Reviewing your estate plan periodically is something advisors recommend. You may find there is nothing you wish to change, but chances are the natural flow of your life has brought you reasons to reconsider your original plan.

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