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How often should an estate plan be reviewed?

Any adult in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, who has substantial assets and wants to ensure that they go to someone specific may want to have an estate plan that becomes effective if the person becomes incapacitated as well as at death. There is no definite answer as to how often an estate plan should be reviewed, but "regularly" is a good way to make sure it remains current with both changes in assets, their distribution, heirs and legal changes.

Financial changes can affect the value of assets a person owns and thus their increased or decreased value can affect the estate plan. Family changes such as marriage, divorce and the addition or loss of children can also affect an estate plan.

For instance, marriage and divorce can affect the value of assets owned because of joint ownership and beneficiary designations. The addition of children or additional heirs, on the other hand, may require new trusts or assignment of guardians.

Reviewing an estate plan is critical to ensure that the owner of the estate keeps in touch with the executor of the will and that those with power of attorney, trustees and beneficiaries are suitable and available to perform the actions expected of them when the benefactor dies.

Finally, an estate plan must address current probate and taxation laws. Estate laws differ from one state to another, so it is important to address any legal differences if the owner of the estate owns assets outside his or her state of residence. It is usually prudent to work with an estate planner as well as a financial adviser to address an estate that has complex finances or great wealth.

Estate planning may be considerable work, but making sure that a legacy is clearly left to the desired heirs will go a long way to preventing family disputes and additional grief. If it is done correctly, everyone will get what they deserve in the end.

Source: 23ABC, "When Should An Estate Plan Be Reviewed?," Keith Morris, Nov. 7, 2013

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