Estate plans are almost magical: they allow you to maintain control of your assets, yet protect you should you become incapacitated. They take care of your family and pets. And, if carefully crafted, they reduce fees, taxes, stress, and time delays. Estate plans can even keep your family and financial affairs private. But one thing estate plans can’t do is update themselves.
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, if will be as stale as last week’s ham sandwich and can fail miserably.
If anything in the following 5 categories has occurred in your life since you signed your estate planning documents, it’s likely time to ensure you and your family are still protected:
- 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. We’ll 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 medical crisis; retiring; receiving an inheritance; or, even winning the lottery.
- Birth, Adoption, or Death of a Child / Grandchild. The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild may call for the creation of gifting trusts, 529 education plans, gifting plans, and UGMA / UTMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act / Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) accounts. We’ll also need to reevaluate beneficiaries, trustees, successor trustees, executors/personal representatives, and agents under powers of attorney.
- Change in Circumstances. Circumstances change. It’s a fact of life - and when you’re 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
- 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 preassigned 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
- Changes in Venue. Moving from one state to another always warrants estate plan review as state’s laws differ. Changes may be needed to ensure that you’re 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, Not Hurt, You
Old estate plans get stale just like old sandwiches do. You wouldn’t rely on last week’s ham sandwich for lunch; please don’t rely on your estate plan from yesteryear. If you’ve experienced any of the changes we’ve mentioned in this article, it’s time to come in and chat. We’ll review your estate plan and make sure you and your loved ones are protected.