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Building and Maintaining an Effective Estate Plan

Taking the time to create a comprehensive, thought out estate plan can save your family money, time and tension. Leaving vague instructions or putting all of your assets under the control of a single family member can cost your loved ones lots of money and cause rifts that last forever.

Despite the fact that estate planning is absolutely essential for most individuals, little more than 35 percent of all American adults have some sort of will. This miniscule figure, culled by Harris Interactive for Lawyers.com, is only one of many representing major problems for aging Americans and their families.

Even for those who already have a will, simply putting it in a safe place and forgetting about it may not be enough. Experts recommend that estate plans be checked on and, if necessary, updated as often as every five years. Changes in circumstance, such as a divorce, or updates to things like estate tax law can cause major headaches down the road if they are not accounted for in a will.

It also pays to be open with potential heirs and cognizant of their wishes. Telling one family member of your plans, while excluding others, can cause a rift between that individual and the rest of the family. Even if you are not dividing assets equally, it is important that you be as open as possible in regards to your will.

If possible, consider those who you are considering in your will. In her article for ABC News, Dalia Fahmy points out that splitting something like a vacation house between several heirs can cause trouble if one or more have no interest in it. Even if such an individual never used the house, he or she would likely remain partially liable for expenses like property tax.

By taking the time to not only plan your estate, but plan it well, you can help your family avoid many problems in the future.

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