Many people take the time to write a comprehensive estate plan and then simply forget about it – ignoring the opportunity to mirror the changes that happen in their personal lives. These people realize in retrospect that significant life events should have dictated numerous changes to any estate planning documents.
There are four times in life that you need to thoroughly examine all your estate planning documents to determine what needs to be revised.
- Marriage and divorce: Changes to marital status signify a significant life event. This change to the family dynamic should trigger a document review. Whether you are adding a significant other or removing a spouse, it is important that your estate planning documents accurately reflect your current wishes.
- Children: Similar to the above, the addition of children to the family should signal a change in estate planning language. Whether it is the birth of a child or an adoption (independent or stepparent), the estate planning documents should be altered to include the new family member. An experienced estate planning attorney can also guide you through the process of naming guardians.
- Changes to beneficiaries: Relationships change over the course of your life. You will meet new people and will outgrow old friendships. Rarely, beneficiaries are all family members. Whether you need to add or remove names from your estate plan, you should take care to make these revisions as soon as they become apparent.
- Tax changes: Tax laws seem to be revised at inopportune times. Similarly, a state-to-state move might mean your estate plan is out of date. It is wise to work with a trusted legal professional to ensure you are compliant with current tax laws.
The commonsense advice is to examine your estate plan every three to five years. If this seems too often for you to make revisions, it is important to make changes when these significant life events occur. From marriage to a cross-country move, your estate plan should accurately reflect your current situation.