Have an estate plan? Great! When was the last time you updated it?

Since you have an estate plan already, you probably know that having one is a good idea for anyone with a spouse, children or other people depending on them. If you own a home, have a job that provides life insurance, or receive income from a structured settlement, you need one.

Every estate plan should reflect your goals and your current beneficiaries. If more than a few years have passed since you reviewed it, or if you've gone through any major changes in your life, you should take the time to review and update your estate plan.

What major changes in your life might occur that call for updating your estate plan? Consider these:

A divorce. Don't forget to update your plan to remove your ex as beneficiary, but also take the opportunity to reflect new goals and to protect your children's inheritances should you remarry.

A remarriage. If either or both of you have children, your estate planning attorney can help you make sure all of the children are provided for in the event of your death. At the same time, you may want to include a clause that favors your biological children over your step children, if necessary.

A new child. Many people plain forget to update their will and estate documents when they have or adopt new children. This can cause confusion and require additional probate work if you should die without all your children included in the plan.

An inheritance. If you inherit a substantial amount of money or property, it needs to be included in your plan so it can be distributed in probate. Additionally, the increase in your estate's value could change how it is taxed or distributed.

A disability or illness in the family. If your spouse or child were to develop a serious or disabling illness, you may want to direct more of your assets to that person's care than your current plan would. You may also wish to open a special needs trust.

A change in the tax laws. State and federal tax laws change more often than you may think, and estate and inheritance taxes are among the most politically volatile issues in Washington. Your estate planning lawyer is in the position to ensure your plan makes the most of those laws.

Pat yourself on the back for putting together a thoughtful, comprehensive estate plan. Your job is not over, however. An out-of-date estate plan that doesn't include important life events can create legal havoc for your family, so make an appointment to review yours now.

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