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Essential tips for maintaining an estate plan

Many New York residents have already taken the essential step of creating an estate plan. It is an important process for protecting assets and distributing them to heirs. However, estate plans can be in place for years if not decades. To keep them relevant, plans may benefit from review at regular intervals.

A failure to review wills and trusts is among the many common estate plan mistakes. For example, parents who have assigned a guardian or guardians for their children in the event of their deaths may need to change that assignment at some point. A couple once considered suitable for raising children may have divorced or moved across the country.

As the years go by, people may also want to name new heirs, adjust the distribution of assets among heirs or remove them. Estate plans sometimes give assets to heirs while they are still young. Periodic reviews of estate plans allow people to consider the development of their heirs. If they do not seem ready to responsibly receive assets, trusts can be set up to hold assets for a few more years.

Estate tax laws are also apt to change at the state or federal level. Looking over an estate plan periodically gives people a chance to make adjustments for tax changes when necessary.

To ensure that final wishes are fulfilled as desired, people often consult with a lawyer for estate planning and updating. Each estate has unique assets and needs. A lawyer familiar with estate tax law may be able to determine the best methods for managing assets as well as offer insights during periodic reviews. Well-designed estate plans may help people avoid the costs and delays of probate court.

Source: CNBC, "Trust bust: Steer clear of the 8 biggest estate-planning mistakes", Barry Glassman, Oct. 22, 2014

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