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The Takeaway: Keeping Your Estate Up to Date


If you have children, you've probably thought about who would care for them should something happen to you. But have you thought of who might care for aging parents? Today's society demands " new considerations" when it comes to estate planning, says the BMO Retirement Institute. The group's new report, "Estate planning in the 21st century: New considerations in a changing society," instructs Americans to review estate plans to factor in parents, pets and technology.

When we think of estate planning, it's often focused around the more traditional aspects, such as leaving money for the children or to charities," said Tina Di Vito, Head of the Institute.

But adults today might want to also keep these things in mind:

- Aging Parents: Fifteen percent of American adults currently care for an aging parent, relative or friend, according to the report. And over half of these adults provide both personal care and financial support. Yet only 33 percent of caregivers made provisions for aging dependents in their wills or estate plans.

Di Vito said caregivers should consider including aging parents et al. into estate plans to "avoid future hardship and heartache for their loved ones." To help determine how best to do this, talk frankly with your spouse, siblings and parents, she recommends.

- Pets: Only one-third of estate plans include provisions for pets, the report notes. Even if you can't afford to leave your dogs millions a la Oprah Winfrey, you can still make arrangements in your estate plan for where pets will go and/or who will care

- Technology: Dying in a digital world brings new estate planning considerations. What will happen to all the personal, professional and financial information you have stored (or on display) online? According to the report, 57 percent of estate planners with "digital assets" have not made provisions for these. Di Vito said you may want to consult your legal advisor about "how to safeguard and ensure an orderly distribution of your digital wealth to loved ones so they are able to access online financials, close out email and social media accounts and retrieve sentimental digital photos or extensive music collections."

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