The best time to take a fresh look at your estate plan and consider revisions is anytime you experience a major life change.
Have you recently married or gotten divorced? A change in marital status definitely warrants another look at your estate plan. If a person gets married and fails to update their estate plan, it can result in the new spouse caught in a battle in the probate court to get their share of the estate. To the contrary, if you have divorced you need to update your plan to remove the ex-spouse as a beneficiary and from any fiduciary roles. It is important to make sure assets are divided and properly titled pursuant to the divorce decree. You also need to make sure the former spouse is no longer named as a beneficiary on any financial accounts, retirement plans or life insurance.
Has your family grown? If you have recently added a child to your family, it’s also wise to make sure that child is included in the estate plan. I have seen estate plans that are set up to benefit the first born child by their name and do not automatically include future born children. You need to make sure all children are included in your estate plan if you intend to benefit them all.
Has someone in your family passed away? Perhaps you named your trusted, older sister to be your executor or power of attorney and then she unexpectedly dies. You need to pull out your estate plan documents to make sure you have an alternate person named to those roles and if not prepare the necessary amendments to your plan.
Have you moved to a new state? Anytime you move to a new state it’s a good time to consult with a local estate planning attorney regarding any nuances in state law that may warrant a change to your estate plan. That being said, keep in mind that your plan from the former state will be valid so long as your plan was properly created in the state where you resided when the plan was made.
Have you experienced a significant growth in wealth? A large increased in the size of your estate is a wonderful reason to re-visit your estate planning attorney – as well as your CPA. The growth in the size of your estate may result in new estate tax consequences for you and your family. It’s best to sit down with your team of advisors to determine if any changes need to be made.
Has it been a long time since you’ve dusted off your estate plan? I meet with a lot of clients who created an estate plan when their children were very young. Fast forward 20 or 30 years later and they still have the same plan in place even though it no longer fits their family’s needs. I suggest reviewing your plan if it’s been a significant amount of time since you last looked at it.
Is it time to revisit your estate plan?