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Why it's important for estates to have contigency plans

Nevada residents who are creating estate plans may want to consider what they want to happen if a beneficiary dies at the same time or shortly after they do. Naming contingent beneficiaries and building in several layers of beneficiaries may help. A person can even specify that if he or she is not survived by the named beneficiaries, his or her assets will go to a preferred charity rather than distant relatives.

A survivorship deferral ensures that if a beneficiary dies shortly after the individual who created the will, the assets will be treated as though the beneficiary died first and will pass to the contingent beneficiary. A simultaneous death clause can be used by a couple or any other two people whose estate is intermingled. If both die and time of death cannot be determined, this clause chooses one to be considered the one who died first. Couples may also want to make sure that property is shared as "tenants in common" so that if they die simultaneously, their assets will pass according to each person's will.

People who have IRAs and other accounts that pass by beneficiary designation might want to arrange a trust for the contingent beneficiary to protect the assets from taxes. Someone may also want to consider how he or she would want assets divided among the children of a deceased beneficiary.

An individual may also want to work with an attorney periodically to make sure his or her estate plan is up to date in terms of tax law, assets and family makeup. Major family events such as births, marriages and divorces might trigger a change in will planning. A lawyer may be able to assist in this review and suggest appropriate estate planning strategies based on a person's situation. For example, a person might want to set up a trust to protect assets from an heir's new spouse.

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