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Reasons an estate plan may be incomplete

Pennsylvania residents and others who haven't updated their estate plans recently may find that they don't necessarily meet their needs anymore. For instance, a plan may be missing key documents such as an advanced medical directive and a financial power of attorney. That should be accompanied by a will in almost all cases. Failing to review an estate plan may result in outdated beneficiary designations.

Over time, an individual may want to add a grandchild to an estate plan or remove a former spouse. By designating a grandchild to receive a 401k or IRA, it may allow that person to inherit the account tax-free. Furthermore, money may be allowed to remain in those accounts where the cash can compound in future years. It may also be a good idea to make sure that the person chosen to be the estate's executor is still the right choice to fulfill that role.

If a family member or friend has been named as a trustee, he or she might not be best suited to fulfill that role. Instead, a bank or other financial institution can be called upon to fill it. Those who own property in multiple states may have to go through probate in each state where the property is located. Putting those properties in a living trust may help to avoid probate.

By using wills and trusts as part of an estate plan, it may be possible to avoid probate or reduce the tax burden on those receiving assets. Individuals may also gain more control over where assets go and how they are used after they pass. An attorney may be able to help a person create estate plan documents or review those that already exist, which may reduce the odds of a legal challenge.

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