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Make it a practice to update your estate plan

Every New York resident should make it a practice to review his or her estate plans each January. Indeed, life circumstances can change throughout the year, and the best way to ensure those changes do not conflict with your existing estate plan is to perform an annual checkup. This article will discuss the areas you should review to make sure you are fully up to date.

First, take a look at your existing estate planning documents. If you did a good job with your estate plan, you should have a health care directive, durable power of attorney, revocable trusts and/or a will on file. Some life changes that could trigger updates to these documents include moving to a different state, a change in value to your assets, buying real estate in a different state, a death in the family, changes to inheritance laws, divorces and more. If one of these changes has occurred, then you may need to change your listed beneficiaries, alter the dispensation of your assets and/or update your documents to reflect different laws.

Second, review your life insurance coverage. Sometimes, life changes will trigger the need to update or change your life insurance. For example, what does the beneficiary information say on your life insurance documentation? Have there been any divorces, deaths, or changes in relationships, and does your beneficiary information need to be adjusted to reflect them?

Third, look over the assets that are included in your estate. The type and value of your assets could mean different kinds of state and/or federal tax implications. These tax implications should be understood and suitable strategies should be implemented to reduce your estate's exposure to tax liabilities. For example, revocable trusts, dividing ownership of your assets in different ways and gifting assets to your heirs before you die could help lessen your estate's tax burdens.

By consulting with an estate planning lawyer, New York residents can pinpoint the most important areas to review in their annual estate planning check up. They can also determine what can be done to bring their estate plans back up to speed.

Source: Time, "Estate Planning Checkup: 3 Items to Review Now," Tracy Craig, Jan. 20, 2016

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