Some Massachusetts residents may think that their estate planning documents are in order; however, they could benefit by conducting a review. It can be challenging keeping up with the changes that occur in their lives, and some things may be different now that can have a profound effect on their estate plans.

Many people are confused by the components of an estate plan, and they erroneously assume that the will is a document that governs all the others. The will covers assets in the probate estate, but it does not include any other accounts that have beneficiary designates.

Keeping track of assets is essential, especially when beneficiaries are named. Unfortunately, many people do not review who their current beneficiaries are, which may cause issues among their heirs, particularly if a beneficiary predeceases them. The law allows ways to stipulate how assets get distributed among remaining beneficiaries. Failure to provide a contingency, sometimes called per capita or per stirpes election, could mean that heirs are unintentionally left of the inheritance.

Those who are unsure about which accounts may have designated beneficiaries should check their IRAs, life insurance, annuities and 401(k) plans. Those wishing to review their accounts may also want to check any 401(k) plans they had with prior companies as they are often overlooked.

Estate planning attorneys may recommend that Massachusetts residents review their plans every three to five years to make sure the beneficiaries named are correct and all accounts are in order. Good record-keeping, including electronic records, and good communication are essential to coordinate and maintain an estate plan.

While accurate record-keeping is essential for any estate plan, people may have questions. A consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney might be beneficial in helping to avoid any future will, probate or other legal issues.