Many people consider estate planning to be a one-and-done task. They take the time to develop a comprehensive plan and then put it completely out of their minds. Unfortunately, significant life events necessitate a revision to one or more parts of the plan. While not everyone will experience all these events, here are eight times when it might be necessary to re-examine your estate plan and make changes where needed.
- Familial addition: Whether through birth, marriage or adoption, the addition of children or grandchildren into the family could trigger a necessary change to a will or the creation of a trust.
- A diagnosed condition: With a new diagnosis, you might need to clarify end-of-life instructions or care instructions for your health care proxy. It is wise to communicate your wishes to both your family and the individual you’ve tasked with power of attorney.
- Relationship changes: It is not uncommon for arguments or disputes to change the nature of a relationship. If you have a serious falling out, it might be wise to ensure this new information is reflected in the estate plan. That might include changing the will or identifying a new executor.
- Changes to spousal relationship: Generally, this boils down to either death of a spouse or divorce. It is critical to reflect these changes in your estate plan immediately.
- Changes in assets or liabilities: It might be easiest to think in terms of property – selling the family home would likely necessitate a change to the estate plan as you had likely discussed the distribution of this asset in a previous version.
- State-to-state relocation: While not every state will have dramatically different laws and rules, it is wise to research to see if any changes are necessary.
- Marriage: Similar to the above note about divorce, if you choose to remarry, it is crucial that your new spouse and any new children are properly identified in the estate plan.
- Death of family members: It could be that an executor, a trustee or a beneficiary passed away, but it is critical that the estate plan is changed to remove this individual and identify a replacement if necessary.
While it is important to review your estate plan every three to five years, it is wise to thoroughly examine your documents after a significant life event. Discuss your changes with a trusted estate planning attorney at your earliest convenience.