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Kent estate planning should not end with a will

Kent, Washington, readers who have caught recent discussions about end-of-life planning and preparing for the future care of children with special needs have probably gotten the message that estate planning involves the sometimes difficult task of thinking honestly and seriously about uncomfortable issues. Even though the discussion can be challenging, few considerations in life will merit more care and attention. A comprehensive and effective estate plan, for many, will represent the best means to ensure the well-being of your family.

Although many Kent estates will benefit from employing various forms of trusts as tools to avoid probate and minimize inheritance tax burdens, the will remains a staple of a comprehensive estate plan. For some, a thoughtfully drafted will may be the only instrument necessary to establish a simple and effective estate plan.

No matter how complex the estate, one of the most important considerations is to make sure that the terms of one's will do not conflict with the legal effects of other instruments. For example, property ownership designations in deeds or titles will override the terms of a will. Likewise, beneficiary designations in financial accounts, bonds and insurance policies will not be altered by the terms of a will.

In the best case scenario, provisions of a will that have no legal effect over other property interests will simply be ruled invalid and ignored. In some circumstances, however, provisions of a will that conflict with ownership designations in other instruments can lead to unnecessary and costly probate disputes.

In order to avoid conflict, Washingtonians should meet with an estate planning professional armed with a comprehensive list of personal assets and interests. The list should include not only current assets, but any potential future interests, such as an anticipated inheritance or litigation award. In order to stay current and effective, an estate plan should be reviewed any time a new asset is acquired or a life event may trigger a change in beneficiaries.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Planning an estate entails more than just drawing up a will," Elliot Raphaelson, Oct. 4, 2012

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