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Estate planning for different stages of life

Over the years, California residents may need to revise financial decisions they made earlier in life. This might be true for estate plans as well; what sufficed at one time of life may be inappropriate in another.

Many estate planners recommend changing wills, trusts, beneficiaries, durable power of attorney and health care proxies as an individual passes from one life-changing stage to the next. Once an individual reaches the legal age of 18, his or her parents might no longer say what happens to their child in the case of sickness or their estate. Setting up new arrangements allowing parents or another chosen individual to make medical and financial decisions is important. Further, having a will assures the passage of one's estate to designated individuals.

Engaged or cohabiting individuals face other choices. An individual may wish to designate the other partner as beneficiary or to make medical choices if the other person cannot. A financial power of attorney specifies who will make financial decisions in the event of an incapacitating illness or accident. If an individual wishes to go on record as to whether life-sustaining technology is used, this may be done with a living will.

Once married, the issues change. A spouse might not inherit the totality of one's estate if a will does not specify this. Instead, the spouse may only inherit 50 percent of it with the remainder going to the nearest relative. Having a will prevents challenges to this in the future. Additionally, the spouse might not be named as the beneficiary on life insurance policies or retirement accounts unless this is specifically changed.

Estate planning revision is an important process for assuring that one's desires are met as life evolves. Consulting with an attorney may help assure that such designations are routinely updated.

Source: Bankrate, "8 life stages of estate planning", G.M. Filisko , Jan. 9, 2015

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