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Estate planning documents must be updated as time passes

Texas residents who create an estate plan should remember that the document is not something that should stand on its own, never to be changed. The goal in an estate plan is to prepare for the future. However, circumstances in the present can fluctuate. Updating and ensuring that all the bases are covered is a foundational aspect of drafting estate planning documents. A comprehensive document might seem intimidating with everything that should go into it, but having a list of what needs to be shored up can be beneficial.

There are four basic documents that are of paramount importance. They are: a power of attorney for finances; a power of attorney for health care; an advance health care directive; and a will. A trust, if used, must have the correct title. Beneficiaries should be named for all assets. Having a health care surrogate who can make decisions in the testator's stead can help avoid confusion, regardless of what happens. There is often a lack of awareness of why estate plan documents should be updated. A survey centered around estate planning documents found that one in six is not up to date. There could be many reasons for this, including not believing it to be as urgent as it really is. Having deadlines as to when tasks must be completed will give incentive to getting it done.

Older people also tend to try to keep these issues to themselves and do not share information with loved ones. The same survey showed that 72 percent of older Americans believe their finances should remain private. This can be problematic if the person becomes incapacitated or can no longer handle the financial aspects of their lives. Discussing the issues with family members can be useful.

Finally, a basic need is to put the documents in a safe, secure location - but one that is still accessible to the testator and trusted associates. There are even ways that the documents can be kept online. This is an idea to think about because it will be on a platform where it is simultaneously easy to locate while still being protected. Whether just starting out with estate planning strategies or thinking about updating and continuing to update estate plans, having a legal professional to help is always a wise step. A law firm experienced in all areas of estate planning may be able to assist at any juncture of the process.

Source: cnbc.com, "These costly estate planning mistakes can be fixed," Lorie Konish, May 10, 2018

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