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Seattle living trusts need to change with life events

As Seattle residents may know, the use of trusts in estate planning can offer a number of advantages, not the least of which is to avoid the expensive and cumbersome probate process. In order to serve its purpose effectively, a trust needs to evolve over time in order to account for changing life circumstances.

Many estate planning professionals recommend a periodic review of trusts and other estate documents, but certain events should trigger an automatic review to ensure that asset preservation goals will continue to be met.

Marriage is one significant event that should prompt review of a living trust or a will. A new marriage also calls for a check-up on asset titles in order to ensure that property will pass to a surviving spouse without a hitch. Taking time to identify and make provisions for the future distribution of individual property can be particularly important when both spouses bring substantial assets into the marriage.

Conversely, divorce or the death of a spouse requires a review to make sure that beneficiary designations, trustee appointments and powers of attorney still reflect one's wishes.

Any purchase of real estate requires particular oversight in order to ensure that property is titled in the name of the trust. Even a mortgage refinancing calls for heightened scrutiny. Lenders frequently remove property from a trust at refinancing and fail to place it back into the trust.

In order to maximize the benefit of a living trust, any new financial account, including savings and investment accounts, should be titled as a trust asset. An account left in the account holder's name may be subject to probate administration.

Finally, estate planning documents will need to be reviewed after any family change that adds or removes beneficiaries. A new birth or adoption naturally requires an estate plan review to make sure that it adequately provides for children's needs, but other family changes may affect a distribution plan as well. In short, divorce or marriage involving children from prior relationships may be a good reason to revisit estate planning goals.

Source: Forbes, "5 Life Events That Require An Estate Planning Review," Michael Chamberlain, Aug. 13, 2012

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