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Major life changes require updates to your estate plan

Maintaining your estate plan can seem inconvenient, but putting off important updates to your plan can cause major complications if you never get around to it. Many life changes may affect your estate plan, making it wise to review your estate documents from time to time.

As a general rule, you should look over your estate plan after any significant life event or every four years. This schedule for review helps account for changes in the law that may affect your plan, which can happen without your knowledge.

Too many individuals treat their estate plan as if it is written in stone once they complete it. In reality, your estate plan should grow and change with your circumstances, in order to offer comprehensive, efficient protections.

Consider these life events carefully

We all come to estate planning with our own set of priorities and concerns, and, over time, these may multiply or change significantly. You should look over your estate plan and consider updates any time that you experience changes in your beneficiaries or significant gains or losses to your estate.

First, consider your beneficiaries. Depending on the size of your estate and the relationships that you value, this may include not only family members and other loved ones, but may also involve gifts to organizations. Over the course of your life, your relationships with these individuals and organizations may change, affecting your estate plan.

Any time that you gain or lose a spouse or child through marriage, adoption, death or divorce, it is wise to look over your estate plan. These events can alter your wishes significantly. The same applies when your beneficiaries marry, divorce, have children or pass away.

Similarly, your estate itself may change over time, in ways that you do not expect. Any time that your estate increases or decreases in value significantly, it is wise to revisit your estate plan. If you do not, the wishes you lay out in your will and your estate plan's terms may not match up with its actual value, complicating dispersal to your beneficiaries.

Your estate plan establishes your legacy

Creating something to leave for those you love is an important responsibility. Simply creating an estate plan is a good first step, but it is not the last. Make sure to review your estate plan at appropriate times, protecting your legacy and ensuring that your wishes are clear when the time comes.

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