Wills need to be updated whenever something significant happens like the death of a loved one, the birth of a child or grandchild or a divorce. And while you're at it, it's wise to review your entire estate, including beneficiaries on life insurance, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and other investments.
That's especially important to assure all documents are coordinated correctly. One of the most common mistakes people make in estate planning is failing to do so, particularly with beneficiaries. Beneficiaries and joint ownerships trump wills, meaning that even if your will directs property to go to your kids, if your former spouse is still listed as beneficiary on your insurance or IRA, that money could go to him or her. Your loved ones might be surprised that they are not inheriting what you planned for them.
The same is true for charitable giving. Many people want 10 percent of the entire value of their estate to go to their church or another charity. Your church or other charity, however, will not receive 10 percent of your retirement accounts or life insurance unless you've specifically named it on those documents. You have to look at the whole package of held assets, including those you hold jointly with a spouse or children.
Regardless of life events, estate planning reviews should occur at least every couple years.
During those reviews, consider other important issues such as guardianship for your children. Your preferences might change if you (or current named guardian) move, divorce or other circumstances change. If you have a child with special needs, you may want to create a Special Needs Trust for him or her.
Health care and financial powers of attorney are also important to review. You'll want to make certain the person designated to make decisions for you if needed is still the right one for you.
For more information on estate planning, contact Greg Bonney at 608-784-5678.
Updating your will.... and your estate
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