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When should I update my estate plan?

While many people take the important estate planning steps of creating a will, assigning powers of attorney and, if appropriate, establishing a trust, far too many people never get around to updating their plans after major life events occur.

For example, if you happen to divorce, then you likely don't want your former spouse to claim an inheritance that you would prefer to go to your children. This kind of thing happens, however, and family disputes over wills and inheritances pose a serious risk of depleting estate assets and causing long-term family strife.

Really, any kind of change in family dynamics or a major change in business partnerships should prompt consideration of updates to your estate plan. The key is having someone on your side with the knowledge and resources to assess your present and future needs, as well as your goals and those of your family.

For many people, setting up a trust is an effective and cost-efficient way of controlling complex assets, avoiding unnecessary tax liabilities and ensuring that a spouse or minor children are financially protected. However, dispute over a well established trust can arise if the terms of the trust are not coordinated with other estate planning documents such as the will.

There are various kinds of trusts, and an estate planning lawyer can help you choose one that is right for your particular family situation. It is also a good idea occasionally to review your estate plan with your lawyer to see if new options are available for protecting and maximizing your assets. Estate and tax laws change frequently, and a lawyer who stays abreast of new laws and provisions can help you update your plan to the best effect.

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