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Existing estate planning documents should be updated regularly

A person should probably update his/her estate plan at least every five years. However, changes may be needed even sooner than that in some instances. There are a number of issues to keep in mind for determining whether it's time to update. The first thing a person should question is how long it has been since the last estate planning review took place. Because of recent changes in federal estate tax laws, the need in New Jersey and elsewhere for larger-asset estate plans to be revisited is great.

If the individual or married couple have purchased real estate since the last estate planning review, changes may be needed. The attorney should review how title is being held to make sure that additional troubles will be avoided. If real estate is purchased in another state, consult with the attorney regarding the possibility of having to file an ancillary estate at death, which could be an expensive item. Estate planning techniques may be able to avoid that result.

It's important to keep up on whether the personal representatives listed in the estate plan are still the ones who are preferred. Relationships can change and people can move. No matter how you cut it, there's a great inconvenience in having a trustee or executor who resides on the West Coast running an estate or trust in New Jersey. Furthermore, if the maker of the will and/or trust documents moves to another state, documents as simple as a durable power of attorney could become at least partially inoperable due to different laws in the two states.

Rather obviously, if the individual has had a divorce or gotten married since the last estate planning session, then the attorney should be consulted right away. There might be legal ramifications and appropriate changes may be necessary. Other issues may be if a business has been closed or sold, if the individual has actually reached retirement age, or any other life or business changes that generally carry legal consequences in New Jersey or nationally.

Source: financial-planning.com, Estate Plan Revise? 5 Key Questions, Tracy Craig, Jan. 27, 2014

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