Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't just let a will sit there

While waiting in line this week to use the restroom during a fundraiser luncheon, I began talking with two other women attending the event about money matters. They knew I write sixtyandsingle.com and agreed there was plenty to write about. It didn't take long for us to dive right into the topic of retirement. But then (this was a long line) our conversation turned to why regularly updating an estate plan is essential, if you expect your wishes at your death to be carried out for the benefit of your survivors. It's usually the wife who is surviving. All of us admitted that it was difficult to revisit a will, for instance, once it was in place. But we talked about women we knew who have been widowed, only to face a big financial mess because they and their now dead spouse didn't update their wills, look into tax implications of the death of a spouse or how the surviving spouse would manage. At findlaw.com, experts make a case for updating your will and estate plan. Here's a check list of events that might prompt you to take action.

- The individuals you have named are deceased.
- New people should be named in your will (e.g. birth, adoption).
- Divorce or marriage.
- New state laws. You need to periodically check to see whether your state has enacted new laws that impact your estate planning documents. More importantly, if you move to a different state, don't assume that your will made in your previous state conforms to the requirements of your new state. Each state has its own legal requirements for making a will.
- Change in guardians, personal representatives, or trustees.
- Children reach the age of 18.
- A substantial increase or decrease in the value of your estate.
- The acquisition or disposition of a significant asset.
- You should see an attorney about reviewing and updating your estate plans prior to reaching 70 and one-half years of age if you have an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified plan that requires you to begin to take distributions at that age. The beneficiary that you designated will have an irrevocable impact on both your and your beneficiary's required distributions.
- The passage of time is reason enough. You should review your will and estate planning documents every three to five years.
For the three of us talking in line thought every three years wasn't often enough. One of my companions suggested once a year on or near your birthday was a good way make it happen.
Here are more ideas for how to update your will and to manage your estate planning:
Buildingawill.com, offers a Q&A format on wills,  click here.
Avvo.com offers more information on estate planning, click here.
Nolo.com offers legal solutions, estate planning information click here

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