Estate planning experts say that everyone should have an estate plan, but not everyone does. Often a life event such as getting married, having children or buying a house motivates people to contact an estate planning attorney and execute a will, any necessary trusts, and advance directives for health care. That is a good thing, but in order to be effective, an estate plan needs to be kept up to date. It is a good idea to review your estate plan on an annual basis, and when certain life events occur.
A change in your family dynamic is something that should always trigger a review of your estate plan. If you have divorced, remarried or had children, it is time to take another look at your plan. For instance, in the case of divorce, you will likely want to remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary and executor. If you remarry, you may want to add your new spouse as a beneficiary while avoiding disinheriting any children from a previous marriage.
Acquiring real estate, whether through a purchase, inheritance or other means, is another reason to examine your estate plan. You will want to make sure the property is properly titled. For jointly owned property, there are important tax considerations involved in choosing the form of joint ownership, and you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you are titling the property in a way that protects your interests.
Finally, it is important to pay attention, not only to your will, any trusts, and real estate, but to accounts that have a designated beneficiary, such as retirement savings accounts. These assets will typically pass directly to the beneficiary without going through your estate, so it is important to make sure that the beneficiary is designated according to your wishes.
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