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When to review an existing will

Due to the way that applicable laws change, over time the details of a will can be outpaced by the current legal environment. This is especially true when looking at a will through the lens of current tax laws. The goal of anyone who is writing a will should the to transfer as much value from an estate to the next generation, and it's important to think about how new laws can leave the terms of will too dated to serve their expected function.

Several laws that were passed between 2003 and 2013 had a major impact on a number of wills. Wills written during that period may not account for the increased federal tax threshold on estates, which raised the point at which an estate is taxed from $600,000 to $5 million and then indexed it to inflation every year going forward. The estate tax was also eliminated for a number of people. In 2013, executors also gained the right to transfer a deceased spouse's federal estate tax exclusion to a living partner through a process called "portability election." In 2005, the federal credit for state-level estate tax was repealed, and many estates were not reconfigured to address this issue. In addition, 2003 health information privacy laws may place limits on what information can be shared without new health proxy provisions in a will.

If a person has not recently discussed estate planning with an attorney since any of these laws came into effect, it may be wise to contact a legal practice. A lawyer can explain how these laws have changed and what steps might need to be taken to amend a will.

Clients can also discuss their concerns about applicable tax laws. An attorney may offer advice regarding how a person can see that their wealth is transferred according to their wishes.

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