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A brief yearly estate planning checklist

Virtually all New Jersey residents are aware that having a clearly drafted estate plan is key to achieving the goal of a smooth transfer of assets at the time of one's death. That said, few people are aware that estate planning is not a to-do item that is completed and then forgotten about. It is important to give one's plan a periodic review, and the following items should be considered annually to ensure that the plan still serves the intended purpose.

First, individuals should consider whether they have acquired any real property in the prior year. This is especially important if one is making use of a trust and needs to fund that trust with all significant items of value. Including new real property acquisitions is important and is often overlooked.

Individuals should also ask themselves if they have taken on any new accounts that require a beneficiary designation, and whether the choices made are in line with the overall estate plan. This is also the time to ensure that any new family members are included within the plan, such as newly born children, a new spouse or any stepchildren that have come into the family. The same can be said for individuals who have left the family structure, whether through death or divorce. 

Most importantly, New Jersey residents should think about their overall estate planning package and consider if the provisions laid out within those documents are still in line with their wishes. People change over time, and it is important to make sure that those shifts are addressed within the estate planning process. By making this review an annual event, individuals increase the chances that their wishes are ultimately carried out.

Source: financial-planning.com, "5 Estate Planning Questions to Ask Clients Annually", Bruce W. Fraser, Aug. 3, 2015

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