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Life changes and estate planning - the importance of updating

Many of our previous posts have stressed the importance of comprehensive and detailed estate planning. For most people, the question marks that can pop up from dying intestate are just too great of a concern to ignore. However, if there are some among our Michigan readers who have taken the first step and actually constructed an estate plan, it is important to remember that life-changing events can happen - and your will should sometimes be changed as well.

Having the necessary estate planning documents drawn up and properly executed is an important, bedrock step. But, for most people, the documents will most likely need to be updated from time to time to account for changes, no matter how minor. For instance, young couples with minor children may need to change their designated guardians for those children in the event the parents die, or they may simply have more children. In that case, it can be better to change the will to identify the new family additions.

In other instances, an older couple may get divorced - a phenomenon which is becoming more and more common - which would necessitate both parties making changes to reflect the fact that new relatives or designees will become the beneficiaries of their estate. However, there is one instance when changing an estate plan may be even more important - a remarriage. There have been some examples of an older, wealthy individual marrying a younger second spouse, only to see the older spouse die shortly after the marriage. In this case, if an estate plan was not updated to reflect the changes, the consequences could set off a heated will contest.

As previous posts have pointed out, everyone needs an estate plan. But, after that first crucial step is taken, maintaining and updating the plan becomes essential to ensuring that the wishes of the estate planner are met.

Source: The Times, "Matt Wallace: Protecting your assets from your new spouse," Matthew Wallace, Dec. 15, 2012

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