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Don’t drop the ball when planning your estate

People work hard throughout their lives to provide for their families, but many make serious errors in planning — or simply fail to plan — when it comes to passing their wealth to heirs after they die.

To that point, studies show that many Americans old enough to need estate planning have done absolutely nothing about it. This lapse is, of course, the most fundamental error you can make in estate planning.

Here are five of the most common estate-planning mistakes that can jeopardize your potential for leaving bequests in line with your desires:

1. Not having a will. A 2016 survey by Harris Poll for Rocket Lawyer found that 64 percent of American adults don’t have a will. Nearly half of these people either said they didn’t need one or just haven’t gotten around to it.

Depending on what state you live in and your personal situation, failure to have a will can deliver assets to people other than those you intend. Moreover, the special needs of loved ones that you’re concerned about may not be addressed. The point of a will is to document your wishes.

2. Failing to update your will. Among those who have a will, this is extremely common. All too often, people act as though their wills are set-it-and-forget-it documents that never need to be changed — even though their lives change. Let’s say that when you make your will, you leave everything to your spouse, confident that he or she will eventually bequeath what’s left of your estate to the children you’ve had together.

Years later you get divorced but neglect to update your will. As a result, depending on the wording in the document and the state you live in, your estate may not go to your children from your first marriage, who by this time may be grown and have children of their own (who might be deserving beneficiaries themselves).

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