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Keep your estate plan up to date

Estate planning lawyers frequently tell people it is important for everyone to have a will. What they may not explain often enough is the fact that people should not think of creating an estate plan as a one-time event. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents should be revised as life situation changes.

If you have gone through a divorce, a new marriage, had a new child or started a new relationship since the last time you updated your will, it's important to make sure your estate plan reflects your current wishes and the needs of your intended heirs. Similarly, changes in the lives of your intended heirs can throw a well-crafted estate plan into confusion.

That confusion can have consequences. A large amount of probate litigation involves a disconnect between an outdated estate plan that no longer reflects the needs or expectations of the family. This litigation is time-consuming and expensive, and the costs often come out of the estate, meaning that heirs inherit less money and more frustration than they otherwise would.

The easiest way to revise a plan is to confer with an estate planning lawyer and draft a new one. Any old will can be revoked and replaced. Another way is to draft an amendment to the will; this is known as a codicil.

It's a good idea to give your estate plan a checkup every few years. Talk to an estate planning attorney about making sure your estate plan has not become out of date.

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