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Updating your estate plan is an annual event

There are few things in life that you can do once and forget about. If you want your car to run well, you must change the oil and have it serviced regularly. Your teeth should be cleaned annually, and you need a flu shot every year. Likewise, your estate plan is one of those things that needs regular attention.

Creating an estate plan is setting the foundation for your future and the futures of your loved ones. However, just as your normal activity makes it necessary for a dental checkup, the events of life also necessitate a fresh look at your estate planning documents.

Your beneficiaries

You can count on people to come and go in your life. Because of this, your beneficiary designations will likely change more often than you think. If you divorce, remarry, have children or grandchildren, or lose someone you love, your beneficiaries may change. You certainly wouldn't want an ex-spouse to inherit your new spouse's share of your estate because of an outdated will.

It isn't only your will that needs regular attention. Your IRA has beneficiary assignments that require revision as soon as you experience a life change. An IRA is not subject to your will designations, and the name on the IRA is the person who benefits from its contents. This is true for life insurance policies and other accounts, so consulting with your attorney is a wise idea.

Is everything in order?

If you have used variations of your name on different accounts, there may be confusion at probate if the titles for your accounts, investments and properties are not consistent. Use of a diminutive, middle initial or suffix like "Junior" should carry through on every asset, including life insurance policies. It is best to use your full, legal name on everything since that is what will be on your death certificate.

In addition to assigning your belongings to your heirs, your estate plan can provide your loved ones with instructions for critical medical and financial decisions that must be made if you become incapacitated. Through these documents, you select a trusted person to act in your place when you are unable to. You can also leave instructions for your preferences regarding the use of extraordinary measures.

There may be other considerations to make for keeping your estate plan up to date and valid. Discussing this with your Kansas attorney annually will prevent your estate plan from becoming obsolete or complicated for your loved ones.

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