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The importance of keeping estate planning documents current

One mistake that many Florida residents make in relation to their estate planning is not keeping these documents up-to-date. In particular, it is not uncommon for individuals to forget to update beneficiary designations. When someone opens an investment account or sets up a retirement account or life insurance policy, they will designate the beneficiaries of these accounts or plans. It is important to note that these designations override what is in someone's will.

This means that if someone updates their will after a divorce or the birth of a child, if their beneficiary designations are not also modified, the existing designee will end up benefiting. This can be especially frustrating when a family member loses out on assets that end up going to someone's ex-spouse. Along with keeping these designations current, people may also want to look into setting up secondary or contingent beneficiaries.

In addition to family event changes, people will want to review these designations when they change jobs, if a financial institution is taken over or if a beneficiary begins collecting Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. When someone changes jobs or when a bank changes hands, these designations can become lost, so it is a good idea to ensure they are still there. Additionally, income from one of these accounts may cause someone receiving disability payments to lose eligibility for their benefits.

Along with keeping estate planning documents current based on someone's situation and relationships, it is also important that these documents comply with state and federal laws. If they do not, they may end up being considered invalid, which can lead to probate and other legal roadblocks that take time and money to sort out.

Source: Forbes, "The Big Estate-Planning Goof You May Be Making", December 16, 2013

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