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Make sure your will isn't contradicted by your accounts with beneficiaries

Most people who are planning their estates know that a will is the foundational document in the plan. When you create a will, you clarify your wishes regarding the distribution of assets, and an estate planning attorney can help you draft a will with enforceable language that leaves nothing to chance.

However, a common mistake in estate planning is to assume that the will always gives the final say. The truth is that multiple estate-related documents can override the contents of a will, and it is important to have a comprehensive, coherent estate plan that doesn't contain any potentially costly contradictions.

While a will is useful for naming heirs and beneficiaries, your will can be overridden by your insurance policies, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts and other accounts with named beneficiaries. For example, your will might name your child as a beneficiary of your life insurance proceeds, but if your former spouse is named as the beneficiary on the actual insurance document, then your ex, not your child, will be entitled to the funds.

These issues bring us to the matter of updating your estate plan whenever a major life event happens or your financial situation changes. Unfortunately, sometimes people go through life changes but procrastinate about updating their plans. In too many cases, something unexpected happens, and the person's family ends up in a dispute or in probate.

A recent article in Consumer Reports notes several other estate planning mistakes you'll want to avoid.

The estate planning and estate administration lawyers of Landrum & Shouse LLP help clients in Lexington and Louisville develop comprehensive estate plans. To learn more about our areas of legal practice, please see our estate administration overview.

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