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Keeping an estate plan from becoming obsolete

Thinking about the future and preparing for the often frightening possibilities ahead takes courage. It means facing one's own mortality and contemplating issues beyond how to distribute one's belongings. When Florida residents make time and effort to create an estate plan, it is usually after careful consideration. Unfortunately, because creating the plan was so stressful, some make the critical error of neglecting to revisit it periodically to ensure it is still effective.

Hardly a year passes in a family that things do not change. Family members marry, divorce, are born and die, and these epic moments can quickly make an estate plan obsolete. Families may say goodbye to people who are named as beneficiaries and welcome new family members who have a potential claim to an inheritance. Additionally, life insurance policies that are left unattended may lapse if neglected, leaving loved ones unprotected.

When a new estate plan is created, it may not contain elements such as advance medical directives or powers of attorney. Someone who fails to add those components as he or she ages may place loved ones in the position of making difficult and painful decisions without the guidance of these documents. Also, while an estate plan generally covers the big picture, it may not address the finer points, such as sentimental items that have special meaning to a particular heir. A review of one's plan will allow for specifying how these should be distributed.

Advisors recommend a thorough review of one's estate plan every few years and following major life events. Some examples include a move to Florida from another state, the death of an heir, or a divorce or remarriage. An attorney can guide a client through the documents and alert him or her to any deficiencies, for example, if the structure of an existing plan does not allow for the latest changes in tax laws.

Source: Kiplinger, "7 Signs Your Estate Plan May Be Worthless", Casey Robinson, March 15, 2018

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