When is it Time to Update Your Estate Plan?
Estate plans — when structured properly — can help you accomplish many things. They allow you to maintain control of your assets, yet protect you should you become incapacitated. They take care of your family and pets. If carefully crafted, they reduce fees, taxes, stress, and time delays. Estate plans can even keep your family and financial affairs private. However, estate plans cannot update themselves. You must take action!
Estate plans are written to reflect your situation at a specific point in time. While they have some flexibility, the bottom line is that our lives continually change and unfold in ways we might not have ever anticipated. Your plan needs to reflect those changes. If not, it may fail miserably when needed the most.
Below are five life events that require a review of your estate plan by our team:
- Marriage, Divorce, Death. Marriage, remarriage, divorce, and death all require substantial changes to an estate plan. Think of all the roles a spouse plays in our lives. You will need to evaluate beneficiaries, trustees, successor trustees, executors/personal representatives, and agents under powers of attorney.
- Change in Financial Status. A substantial change in financial status – positive or negative – generally requires an estate plan update. These changes can be the result of launching, winding down, or selling a business; business and professional success; filing bankruptcy; suffering a medical crisis; retiring; receiving an inheritance; or even winning the lottery (we recommend calling us before claiming a winning lottery ticket).
- Birth, Adoption, or Death of a Child/Grandchild. The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild may call for the creation of trusts, 529 education plans, gifting plans, and UGMA/UTMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) accounts. You will also need to reevaluate beneficiaries, trustees, successor trustees, executors/personal representatives, and agents under powers of attorney.
- Change in Circumstances. Circumstances change; it is a fact of life. When you are the beneficiary or fiduciary of an estate plan, those changes may warrant revisions to the plan. Common examples include:
- Children and grandchildren attain adulthood and are able to serve in trusted helper roles (successor trustee, executor/personal representative, and agent under powers of attorney).
- Relationships change and different trusted helpers need to be named.
- Beneficiaries or trusted helpers develop overspending or drug/gambling habits.
- Guardians, executors, or trustees are no longer able (or no longer wish) to serve in their previously assigned roles.
- Beneficiaries become disabled and need a special needs trust to receive government benefits.
- Guardians for minor children divorce, move to a new state, or are otherwise no longer appropriate to serve.
- Moving to a New State or Country. Moving from one state to another always warrants an estate plan review because state laws differ. Changes may be needed to ensure you are taking full advantage of – and not being penalized by – your new state’s laws. This is also true when purchasing a second home outside of your state.
Estate Plans Are Created to Help You
Please contact us to schedule a meeting if you have experienced any of the changes we have mentioned in this article or if you would like our competent and experienced attorneys to review your existing plan for any reason. Since 1997, we have had the privilege of helping individuals and families update their estate plans to protect their future