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Reminder: The Importance of Updating Estate Planning Documents

The importance of having a thorough and complete estate plan cannot be overstated. Not only does it protect your wishes, it also ensures that your loved ones are provided for after you are gone. However, the estate planning process is not a one-and-done deal. It is also important to update your estate planning documents to reflect any personal, familial, or financial changes that have occurred in your life. The estates of some famous actors illustrate why it is important to have an updated plan.

The actor Paul Walker, known mostly for his role in the high speed franchise, “The Fast and the Furious,” died tragically at the age of 40 in an automobile accident. At the time of his death, he was survived by his parents, his 15 year old daughter, and a girlfriend of seven years. Mr. Walker did have an estate plan in place with a pour-over will and trust set up for his daughter. Unfortunately, Mr. Walker set up his estate plan twelve years prior – the same year that his first hit franchise movie came out. Since then, his wealth had increased dramatically and he entered into a long-term relationship. Because his plans were never updated his daughter will be inheriting millions more than anticipated, his long-term girlfriend will get nothing, and the family does not have the direction to know what his true last wishes would have been.

Philip Seymour Hoffman provides another good example of why it is important to update your estate planning documents. Mr. Hoffman died at age 46 from a drug overdose earlier this year. At the time of his death he was survived by his companion of fourteen years and mother of his children as well as his three kids ages 10, 7, and 5. At the time of his death, Mr. Hoffman had an estate plan that was created in 2004. It provided for the eldest child who was the only one born at the time, and did not have any language that provided for the case of future children. His two pretermitted children, those born after the creation of the will, are now left in a precarious legal situation. In addition, since the creation of his estate plan Mr. Hoffman had gained significant wealth and acclaim from winning an Oscar and his successful movie career. He never updated his will to manage this new wealth, and as a result of the language of his will all of the assets that go to his longtime companion will be taxed once under his estate and again under her estate when she dies before it goes to their children.

By periodically updating an estate plan issues like the ones faced by the families of Mr. Walker and Mr. Hoffman can be avoided. When family events or financial circumstances change consider speaking with your estate planning attorney about updating your plan in order to accommodate these changes. It will ensure that your loved ones will receive all of the benefits intended and face no surprising legal problems with your estate.

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