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When should you consider modifying your estate plan?

It's never wise to wait until you're on your deathbed to create your estate plan — or even until you're in your retirement years. None of us knows what the future will bring. It's wise to put an estate plan in place — at least a will once you've accumulated some assets. However, it's also essential to keep it updated as major life changes occur.

We've previously discussed the changes you should make (or at least consider) for your estate plan if you divorce. However, there are other life events that necessitate modifications to your plan. Let's address a few of those.

Getting married: People may assume that everything will automatically go to their spouse should they die (and vice versa). That's not necessarily the case. For example, things like individual inheritances that aren't considered joint property won't automatically go to your spouse.

Real estate transactions: Your house is probably the single biggest asset you have. Even if you and your spouse jointly purchase it, if you were to die simultaneously, what do you want to happen to it? Further, if you drafted your estate plan in Arizona, but move to another state, you'll need to review your plan with an attorney in that state to see if any changes are necessary to comply with state laws.

Having children: Besides setting up a trust for your children to eventually inherit your assets, you have a more immediate concern about who will care for them if something should happen to you and your spouse simultaneously. Having guardians listed can save family members from having to go to court to seek custody of the children.

Death of a beneficiary: Often, family members whom we've listed in our estate plans die before we do. If a loved one passes away, determine how you want the assets they were set to inherit to be disbursed. Of course, if your spouse dies, that will likely require significant changes to your estate plan.

It's wise to review your estate plan regularly, even if you haven't had any significant life changes. If you're not certain whether a change in your life warrants a modification, ask your Arizona estate planning attorney. It's easier to make changes to your plan throughout your life than to wait until you believe most of your "life events" are behind you.

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