Most people that I meet with imagine estate planning a something that simply needs to be checked off of their to-do list. Meet with an attorney, get a will, sign it and then done. However, in order for estate planning to be successful, it requires follow through. Consider the following example discussed on MarketWatch, a woman is diagnosed with cancer and has a will created where assets are divided in thirds between her surviving spouse and two children. After her passing, a problem is realized. The beneficiary named on her 401K was her husband and the company was legally required to give the full amount of the 401K to the beneficiary on the account. This complicated could have been easily avoided by changing the beneficiaries on the 401K to reflect the will.
In order for estate planning to be effective, whenever you name a beneficiary on a retirement account, life insurance policy or other account, you should make sure your designations match your wishes. Contradictions between estate planning documents and beneficiary designations on accounts can result in beneficiaries receiving more or less than what was intended. A good estate planning attorney will remind you to update all annuities, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies to match your estate planning wishes. This includes any new accounts you may open. Meeting with your estate planning attorney every 3-5 years to review your estate plan to make sure that it still reflects your wishes is therefore highly recommended.