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Estate planning: what happens after the documents are signed?

Depending on a Washington, DC, resident's circumstances, an estate plan is either simple or complex. The number of estate planning documents necessary to properly provide for an individual's wishes and desires regarding disposition of his or her property varies. Once those documents are drafted and executed, many people wonder what happens next.

The first question many people have is regarding where to keep the original documents. It is crucial that the documents be kept in a safe place, but at the same time, they have to be accessible when the time comes. Many Washington, DC, residents have safety deposit boxes for their wills, trusts and other documents that deal with disposition of property after death. Others will leave the originals with their attorneys who usually have some sort of vault for these types of original documents.

Documents that may be used during life such as durable powers of attorney and advance medical directives need to be kept closer to home since they may need to be used in an emergency. It may also be a good idea to give a copy of them to the person or persons named as agents in the documents. Doing so could cut out precious time that could be wasted by the agent or agents searching for the documents.

Regardless of the exact location of an individual's estate planning documents, they need to be reviewed from time to time to ensure they still achieve his or her goals. Major life events such as births, deaths and marriages could require adjustments to the documents. In addition, tax laws can be unpredictable, and changes may need to be made in order to protect an individual's assets from tax liability.

Source: CBS Boston, Estate Planning 101, Dee Lee, March 21, 2014

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