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The (often overlooked) importance of naming one's heirs

When it comes to estate planning, many Tennessee families put a great deal of time and effort into crafting a comprehensive plan that will serve to pass down hard-earned assets to the next generation. However, unless the proper precautions are taken, the provisions laid out within an estate plan could be subject to attack in probate litigation. The best way to protect against such a loss is by clearly outlining one's chosen heirs.

This may sound like a common sense bit or advice, but simply listing one's heirs within a will or other document is not sufficient. It is also imperative to make sure that these documents are regularly updated to reflect changes in the family. Over the course of time, marriage, death, divorce and the birth of new children can all impact how an individual's assets would be divided. If those changes are not included in the estate plan, the door is left open to a legal challenge.

The basis of such a challenge could be that the individual simply failed to update his or her will after the family structure changed. For example, it would be hard to deny the fact that a person did not intend to pass down wealth to an uncle who predeceased the individual by several years. It could also be argued that a parent did not mean to disinherit his or her young child by not updating the will to include this newest family member. However, absent a clear legal directive, a probate court would be left to decide the matter.

One of the most important things that a Tennessee family can do to strengthen their existing estate plan is to schedule regular appointments to review the documents and make any necessary changes in regard to naming heirs. Doing so is a relatively simple and straightforward process. Meeting with an attorney also gives the family a chance to learn of any relevant estate planning changes that could impact their current plan.

Source: washingtonblade.com, "Myths of estate planning", Lawrence S. Jacobs, Aug. 12, 2016

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