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Why should you regularly review your estate plan?

You have an estate plan in place. Good for you! That's more than most Americans can say. However, too many people make the mistake of putting it in a drawer or safe and never thinking about it again. That can lead to some serious problems if you don't make necessary changes in response to life events.

One Certified Financial Planner recommends reviewing your estate plan annually, even if you haven't had any major life events. For some people, tax time is a good time to do that because you're going back over the year's events and changes as you prepare your return.

Estate plans are as unique as the people who have them. However, a basic review outside of a major life event can include considering the following questions:

-- Am I still happy with my choices for beneficiaries and the amount I'm leaving them?

-- Have my wishes for care if I become incapacitated changed?

-- Am I happy with my choice for guardian(s) of my children?

-- Are the people I chose as powers of attorney still up to the job?

-- Do I want to add or change any of the charities to which I'm leaving money?

Obviously, some life changes will almost certainly necessitate a change to one or more estate planning documents. These include:

-- New children or grandchildren

-- Marital status change

-- The death or incapacity of a beneficiary or designated administrator

-- A significant change in your financial situation or income (including retirement)

-- A family member's new dependence on you

-- The purchase or sale of a business

When drafting an estate plan, experienced attorneys can work to include verbiage that can minimize the need for changes with each new birth or death. However, just about any estate plan will require some tweaking over the years. Your attorney can help advise you on what to look at as you regularly review your plan based on your own circumstances and when to amend it.

Source: The Des Moines Register, "Periodic review of your estate plan will alert you to any necessary changes," Frank Mokosak, April 04, 2016

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