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The importance of frequent reviews of your estate plan

Once your estate plan is in place, you may think you are set for the rest of your life and you never have to give it another thought. After all, it may have taken you years to muster the courage to make the plan in the first place, and now you would like to put it out of your thoughts and let it provide peace of mind for the rest of your life.

Unfortunately, as solid as your estate plan may be, your life is not going to remain stagnant. Many of the normal changes that will occur in just one year of a person's life can render parts of an estate plan useless. This is why a regular checkup of your estate plan is a good idea.

A checkup for your estate plan

Meeting with your estate planning attorney every year or so is the standard most financial advisors recommend. This will allow you to remain familiar with the plans you have in place and alter them as you see fit from year to year. Some of the important elements of your plan you should review regularly include the following:

  • Beneficiaries: Reviewing the designations you have on your pension, retirement accounts and deferred compensation will ensure you have expressed your wishes accurately.
  • Contingent beneficiaries: It will save your family confusion if you name a secondary beneficiary in the event the first one is no longer around to collect the inheritance.
  • IRA beneficiaries: Your will does not cover your IRA, so having the wrong beneficiary may mean complications and tax ramifications for your estate.
  • Power of attorney: This designation in your estate plan will save your loved ones a trip to court to obtain permission to make medical and financial decisions if you should become incapacitated.
  • Consistency: If you use different forms of your names, such as a nickname, middle name, a name suffix or a post-nominal, be sure all of your estate planning documents are consistent, using your complete name as it will appear on your death certificate.
  • Titles: Check for the same consistency of names on any property titles, deeds, insurance policies and accounts.

Of course, any time your family experiences a major life change, you should not hesitate to protect your estate by revising your beneficiary designations. This is especially important after you go through a divorce, remarry, welcome children to your family or lose a loved one who is named as a trustee, beneficiary or power of attorney. Your attorney will also be able to inform you of recent changes in federal or Nevada tax laws that may affect your plan or new estate planning tools that would benefit your circumstances.

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