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When should you amend your estate plan?

Developing an estate plan is essential to making sure that your wishes are carried out after your death regarding inheritances and donations to charity. It's also important for detailing your wishes should you become too incapacitated to speak for yourself.

However, most people have life changes after their estate plan is drafted that require some changes. If you have any of these changes, it's essential to speak with your California estate planning attorney to determine what updates need to be made to your estate plan.

-- Having children: In addition to including your new child in your will or developing a trust for him or her, you should designate a legal guardian who will care for your child if you and your spouse both die or become incapacitated.

-- Getting divorced: If your spouse was a beneficiary, executor, trustee and/or power of attorney, you'll likely want to make changes to your estate plan. The same may be true if your spouse's relatives are listed in your estate plan. It's a good idea to discuss this with your family law attorney while you're going through the divorce process so that you don't violate any terms of the divorce agreement.

-- Getting remarried: Too often, people don't realize how remarriage will impact their children's inheritances. Their kids end up getting nothing, while their new spouse gets everything. If you want to ensure that your children inherit what you wish them to, talk with your estate planning attorney about how to do this.

-- Change in assets: If you have a significant change in your net worth, whether through income or inheritance, you may want to change the amount designated to beneficiaries if it was a specific amount or if the percentage designated for them is now larger than you think they can handle. You may also choose to spread your increased wealth among more beneficiaries.

-- Illness or death: If one of your executors or powers of attorney dies or is no longer able to carry out the designated responsibilities, you'll want to designate someone else unless you already have secondary people designated.

If you're unsure whether changes in your life warrant a change to your estate plan, your attorney can advise you. If you have a well-drafted plan, you've probably provided for such changes already. Even if you haven't, changes to an estate plan are generally relatively easy to make.

Source: Forbes, "6 Reasons To Revise Your Estate Plan As Soon As Possible," Mark Eghrari, Jan. 02, 2017

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