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Any Life Changes as of Late? It's Time to Freshen Up Your Estate Plan!

All sorts of things can change over the course of our lives-and some of those changes may affect existing estate plans. Experts recommend that you review your estate plan every few years to confirm whether it needs updating.

Things change over time. New tax laws, more grandchildren, an aging estate executor ... the list goes on and on. That being said, it's no surprise that a recent explorenews.com article, titled "Six reasons to take a fresh look at your estate plan," recommends that you should review your estate plan every few years to see if it needs updating. Whether you have a simple will or a revocable living trust, the article points out several reasons to re-evaluate your estate plan regularly.

New family members and friends. There might be a new person in your family or a friend whom you would like to add as a beneficiary, trustee, or inheritor. There may be some new grandchildren and in-laws, or charitable organizations in which you have become active.

Former family members and friends. Perhaps you want to exclude someone currently in your will or trust, like an ex-spouse or ex-in-laws.

Your choice of executor or co-trustee. The article suggest that you consider the current age, geographic location, abilities and skills of the executor and/or co-trustee you originally chose, and whether those individuals are still the best candidates. For example, you may want to change your named executor or trustee if he or she is in their mid-80s.

Assets. Do your will and/or trust still apply to the assets you currently have? If your assets have increased or become more complex, you might want to look at adding a trust, drawing up a more detailed will, or consulting with an estate planning attorney to better evaluate your circumstances.

Values. There is more to estate planning than just finances. Evaluate the decisions you have documented regarding your health care and Advance Directives, such as any Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. Think about whether you would like to make any changes.

Tax law. A change in the federal tax laws may require updates to trusts. Estate planning attorneys generally recommend that you should have a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.

Once you update your estate plan, tell your family what documents you have drawn up and where they can find them (such as at your attorney's office). You need not tell them what is in your will or trust, but someone needs to know it exists. Keep your living will somewhere easy to find, and give copies to appropriate family members, along with copies of your health care and financial powers of attorney. These extra steps will ensure that your wishes are put into action when needed.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website.

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