My clients often ask me, “How often should I review my estate plan?” and the answer to this question varies from person to person. These are some of the major milestone events that occur in your life that will require a review of your estate plan.
- Marriage. Marriage can automatically give each spouse some rights to each other’s property. However, marriage does not automatically change your Will or Trust to provide for a new spouse. It is important to examine your estate plan in light of the new marriage, and you and your spouse’s mutual and separate goals.
- Divorce. Divorce is incredibly disruptive to an estate plan. Goals which you had during your marriage, such as providing for the now ex-spouse have likely changed. An ex-spouse may inherit certain assets if you do not update your estate plan.
- Birth or Adoption of a Child. The addition of a new family member (child, grandchild, niece or nephew, etc.) can radically alter your estate plan.
- Illness. If you or one of your family members becomes seriously ill, you may want to consider changing your estate plan to reflect their increased needs. For example, if a loved one now has special needs, you can leave assets in a Trust that will not disqualify him or her from receiving government benefits.
- Changed Feelings about Family and Friends. With the passage of time, you learn more about yourself and others. For example, you may decide your brother John who lost everything in bad investments may not be the best person to manage your assets.
- Change in Tax Laws. As we all know, Congress rarely leaves tax laws alone for long. Changes in tax law can mean your estate plan no longer accomplishes its goals.
- Change in Non-Tax Laws. Periodically, state legislatures change substantive non-tax laws, such as changes in the Power of Attorney law. These laws may affect who gets your property and how your assets may be managed.
- Inheritance. If you or your spouse have received or expect to receive a significant inheritance, there may be new opportunities to reduce taxes and provide creditor protection.
- Change in Assets. A significant change in the nature and extent of your assets may give rise to different estate planning options. For example, the acquisition of a farm or business may raise issues of succession planning and gifting.
- Change in Residence. While estate planning documents typically are valid from one jurisdiction to another, each state has its own peculiarities. If you move, you will want to have your estate plan reviewed in the new state you are living in.
Many factors may determine whether you need to have your estate plan reviewed to make sure your final wishes are met. Our office recommends reviewing your estate planning documents every three to five years or sooner if you experience any of the changes listed above. Contact us to set an appointment to review your estate plan.