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Have you reviewed and updated your estate plan recently?

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s estate planning choices, many of which were initially thought to be mistakes. Hoffman’s untimely and tragic death is a reminder that none of us truly knows how much time we have left. As such, it is important to have our affairs in order, including estate planning.

Although many of Mr. Hoffman’s choices were intentional, he seems to have made at least one mistake, and it is a common one. The actor drafted his will after the birth of his first child, but he never updated it despite having two more children with his longtime girlfriend. It is important to create an estate plan, but it is just as important to review and update it regularly.

A similar cautionary tale was the 2013 death of actor James Gandolfini, who was well known for playing the lead character on HBO’s “The Sopranos.” Much of his fame and fortune came late in life, which made his death at the age of 51 especially surprising and tragic.

Like Hoffman, Gandolfini had an estate plan in place, but it was not up to date. It had not been updated to reflect the birth of his 9-month-old daughter or to reflect the huge jump in income as a result of his career success. The end result was that 80 percent of Mr. Gandolfini’s estate was lost to taxes.

Many Americans put off even the initial process of estate planning. So if you have an estate plan in place, you can feel proud of yourself for being on the ball. But please also make sure to review your estate plan at least once a year and update it as necessary. Doing so will give you peace of mind that no matter what life brings, your loved ones will be cared for.

Source: The Valley Business Journal, "Yearly Review: The Most Critical Part Of Every Estate Plan," Elliot H. Stone, Aug. 1, 2014

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