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A fast and effective yearly estate planning checklist

8/20/2015 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

Most Pennsylvania residents are aware of the importance of creating a fully fleshed-out estate plan. They may even be aware of the need to periodically review their estate planning package to ensure that their current wishes are properly documented. That said, actually sitting down and completing this task often falls by the wayside as individuals and families focus on more pressing daily obligations. Having a basic checklist in place and working through that list on an annual basis is a great way to ensure that one’s plan is fully up to date.

During this annual review, individuals should begin by considering if their family dynamic has shifted during the past year. Changes in family structure can occur through marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. Any of these changes can necessitate a change in one’s estate plan. Failure to update a plan can lead to a number of problems at the time of one’s death, including disputes between family members or the unintentional disinheritance of a loved one.

Next, it is important to consider whether any real property has been acquired in the previous year. If so, those assets should be addressed within the estate plan, including being placed within a trust if that is part of the larger estate planning track. It is also a good idea to consider if any accounts have been opened that require a beneficiary designation and to look at how those designations may shift the ultimate distribution of assets to intended heirs.

Finally, Pennsylvania residents should take a look at their overall estate planning package to ensure that the provisions laid out within are still in line with their wishes. This is an important step, as circumstances change over time. The intentions that are held at one point in time may be very different a few years down the road. If one’s estate planning documents are not altered to reflect those shifts, the end result could be one that is far from what the decedent actually intended at the time of his or her death.

Source:, “5 Estate Planning Questions to Ask Clients Annually“, Bruce W. Fraser, Aug. 3, 2015