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Avoiding problems in estate plans

Wisconsin fans of comic book artist Stan Lee might be aware that there have been some issues surrounding his estate over the years. Earlier this year, he said that someone had stolen $1.4 million from his accounts. He also had a document notarized accusing his daughter of being emotionally abusive and trying to take advantage of him that he then took back. Furthermore, Lee had worked with a number of agents and managers over the years, and there may be multiple documents making different claims that will need to be sorted out.

Even those with smaller and less complex estates can learn from Lee's situation. Everyone needs certain documents, such as powers of attorney in case of incapacitation. People should also review their estate plans from time to time to make sure they do not want to change their beneficiaries or other parts of the plan.

However, there are also certain questions people may want to ask the professional who is assisting them in preparing an estate plan. For example, they should discuss how assets will be organized and whether trusts would be appropriate. They may also want to talk about whether family members should be included in discussions about estate planning, at what point they might be declared incapacitated and how the professional would work with family members.

Another thing people creating estate plans should keep in mind is that the documents need to be consistent. For example, some assets, such as life insurance, are passed using a beneficiary designation. Beneficiary designations overrule instructions in wills or trusts, and when a person goes through a divorce or other life changes, he or she often forgets to update these documents. This can create problems, such as an ex being left assets intended for a current spouse. People in blended families may want to ensure all their children receive assets equally.

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