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Why estate plans need to be updated

Louisiana residents should ensure that they review their estate plans regularly. Director John Singleton, who died suddenly of a stroke in April, had a will from 1993 that had never been updated. Instead of a trust that would keep his estate plan private, make his wishes clear and appoint one or more people to handle his intellectual property, the will names the only one of his five children who had been born at that point as the heir.

California law states that children born after the time a will is created can inherit equally with a few exceptions, such as those who will inherit via a life insurance policy or other means. However, there is still likely to be conflict around Singleton's estate. His family argued publicly over whether he would survive his stroke, who should be appointed conservator and his cause of death. His mother filed his will with the probate court, but one of his daughters challenged her efforts to become executor.

The daughter has dropped the challenge, but there is another hurdle. Singleton's mother listed two minors as alleged children of Singleton. It is uncertain whether they are actually his daughters and whether they will receive any part of his estate. There may also be disagreements over how Singleton's mother decides to manage his intellectual property.

It is a good idea to review an estate plan every few years at minimum as well as after any major family changes, such as marriage, divorce, birth or death. Changes in tax law or a person's assets may also necessitate revisions to the estate plan. This includes reviewing not just a will or a trust but other estate planning documents, such as beneficiary designations, powers of attorney, and advance health care directives.

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