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Estate planning is an ever evolving and changing process

There are many unknowns in life. These uncertainties become especially apparent when one contemplates his or her future long-term care and health needs. While there's no way to predict the future or truly know how much money you'll need or be able to leave to your loved ones, estate planning helps an individual gain more control over both his or her future as well as the financial security of surviving heirs.

Despite the many benefits afforded to those individuals, and their family members, who partake in the estate planning process; a poll found that only roughly 56 percent of American parents have established a will or trust. Regardless of whether an individual is 30 and single or 70 and married with grown children and grandchildren, all individuals can benefit from taking steps today to plan for the future.

When something as important as one's future and the futures of loved ones are at stake, it's imperative to be informed and prepared. The following are some common estate planning mistakes that, if not rectified, can inhibit one's ability to reach established estate planning goals.

For example, many estate planning disputes stem from failing to communicate one's wishes or plans with family members. Parents often take numerous factors into consideration when making plans for the distribution of assets and property. However, if these reasons aren't explained to surviving heirs, tensions may give way to arguments and lawsuits which can not only eat up inherited assets but also cause major and irreparable familial rifts.

Failing to update an existing estate plan is another common mistake that can quickly derail one’s plans for the future. It’s important to remember that when it comes to estate planning, it's not a one and done process. Rather, one's estate plan should be amended to account for the changes that occur in one's life. From births, deaths, marriages and divorces to shifting priorities and long-term care needs; failing to account for life changes can have unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Source: The Street, "5 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes You Can Make," Jason Notte, July 13, 2015

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