Estate planning: Once may not be enough

On behalf of Scaringi Law posted in Estate Planning on Friday, January 9, 2015.

Once a will and/or trust are in place, individuals may be tempted to regard their estate planning as complete. Yet preparing for the future distribution of one's estate is not something that should be approached with a to-do list mentality.

An attorney that focuses on estates and trusts knows that an estate plan should be reviewed every few years. The reason for periodic updating is that significant life events can drastically alter estate-planning goals.

For example, parents who first created a will or trust when their children were minors may have named a guardian. If those children are grown and/or have children of their own, their needs are no longer the same. Perhaps an estate plan may include a trust intended for a special purpose, such as the purchase of a home or funding the college education of grandchildren. Unlike a will, assets can stay in a trust, perhaps until the named beneficiaries reach a certain age or other written conditions are met.

Relationship or job changes also impact an estate plan. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, often include beneficiary designations. An attorney can help an individual rollover 401(k) plans from previous positions and remind individuals to update their beneficiary designations. It may even make sense to create a revocable trust and title those retirement accounts in the name of the trust.

Finally, many individuals include a living well as part of their estate plan. In the event an individual has suffered a disability or changed opinions about certain life-sustaining procedures, it will be important to revise an estate plan to reflect those new conditions.

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