How to tell if an estate plan isn't complete

Ideally, residents of North Carolina will review their estate plans on a regular basis. Failing to do so could mean that it is missing key components such as an advanced medical directive or a will. It could also mean that the plan doesn't have updated beneficiary designations or that assets are distributed outright instead of in a trust. Ultimately, this may mean that a plan is executed against a person's true wishes.

Those who have life insurance policies should make sure that they have not lapsed. It is also worthwhile to see that the policy as written will meet a person's needs today. If not, it should be updated or otherwise improved. Individuals should be sure to spell out who will obtain ownership of any personal items left behind. Items may include an engagement ring or any other objects that have monetary or sentimental value.

Absent clear instructions, surviving family members may experience stress when trying to determine who owns what. Any estate plan created before the Tax Reform and Jobs Act of 2017 should be reviewed to see if it takes current estate tax exemptions into account. Currently, the exemption is $11.2 million, but that is only scheduled to last until 2025. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to talk with a financial planner or attorney.

Engaging in estate planning may make it easier for an individual to transfer assets upon his or her death. It may also make it easier to manage finances or receive medical treatment while alive but incapacitated. Individuals who are interested in creating an estate plan may want to talk with a financial or legal professional. An attorney may be able to review current documents to determine their effectiveness or help create new ones if necessary.

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