If you are one of the few people who followed wise advice and planned your estate at an early age, you can be proud of yourself. Your family will certainly be grateful for the time and effort you took to protect your assets, provide for your family and clarify your wishes.
However, if you made that plan years, maybe decades ago, you may be long overdue for a careful re-evaluation of your goals. There are many reasons why a regular review of your estate plan may be in order:
- You have married or divorced: In some states, like Florida, a divorce automatically impacts your will.
- Your children or grandchildren have married or divorced: You may wish to include any new people who have joined the family or remove those who are not longer related.
- You have bought property: You will certainly want to include this in your trust or will.
- You have moved to a different state: The tax laws and other estate planning statutes in your new state may be different.
- Your wealth has increased or declined significantly: You may wish to reconsider how you planned to disburse your assets.
Each of these changes brings with it a new set of circumstances and perhaps new people to consider in your estate plan. Putting off revising your plan may allow your assets to end up where you never intended. It may also mean that the care you receive and the decisions that are made at the end of your life do not really conform to your wishes.
Start by looking over the documents in your estate plan
A good place to begin is with the names mentioned in your will, trusts, power of attorney and health care directives. Have you changed your mind about the role you expect them to play in your estate plan? Have any of the people named in the documents died, become too ill or expressed that they do not want the responsibility?
Make sure the beneficiaries in your will and on your insurance policies are up to date. They should reflect any changes in marital status or simply the way you may be thinking differently about the purpose of your wealth.
Review your options with an attorney
Tax laws may have changed, and the instability of the financial and business worlds may impact your choices. This is why regular checkups to review your estate plan can make a difference.
An experienced estate planning attorney will look over your plan and help you modify it correctly and clarify the language to avoid any misunderstandings. Your lawyer will also know if any new estate planning tools have developed since the time when you made your original plan. If you revisit your estate plan every five years or so, chances are good that all your careful preparation will pay off.