Having an estate plan is an important part of securing your family’s future should the unexpected happen. However, an estate plan that you made years ago may not be the right fit for you today. Because life circumstances change, assets change, and people come and go from your life, you may find your desires change, also. If you haven’t reviewed your estate plan in a while, you may want to consider updating it.
When to Update Your Estate Plan
Your estate plan should always reflect your current life situation and desires, especially when your life circumstances have changed. Here are some major events that should trigger an evaluation of your plan:
- You have recently married. While there are state laws that dictate the distribution of assets to surviving spouses, your desires may be different than what the state law says. This can be particularly important if you have a blended family from previous marriages or relationships and want to ensure that they receive a portion of your estate.
- You have gone through a divorce. You’ll likely want to change your plan to reflect your current relationship status when you get a divorce. While a divorce automatically removes your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, you may still want her to receive some of your estate. If your will still names your ex-spouse as a personal representative (executor), you may want to consider naming a new person to assume that role.
- You have a new child. If you have a new child after a divorce, you want to consider who will be named as guardian should you and your spouse both die unexpectedly. Additionally, consider how your assets should be divided and who manages them until your child becomes a legal adult.
- Your children have become adults. Once your children are legal adults, your estate plan may not reflect the current needs of your family. For example, you may no longer want to put your assets in a trust, as your children are old enough to manage their inheritances on their own. Or you may wish to include grandchildren in your estate plan, too. This is also a good time to review your Advanced Medical Directive (or “living will”) to be sure that it includes instructions to your adult children for your care should you become unable to care for yourself.
- Your assets have changed. Significant changes to assets should always trigger an evaluation. The purchase or sale of a home or property, a valuable art or jewelry collection, an expensive car, or other such high-value asset gains or losses are examples of ways that assets can change. These changes should always be accounted for in your will or removed if no longer relevant.
- You have moved. Moving should trigger an estate plan evaluation, especially if your move involved the sale and purchase of a home. If you move to a new state, you should also take a moment to check your estate plan, as state laws can vary. You’ll want to be sure that your existing plan is still valid in your new location.
- You want to designate a new personal representative or beneficiary. Over time, the people you designate in your estate plan may move, die, or become less significant in your life. It’s important to consider whether or not your estate plan reflects those who are currently in your life. If you have had one person listed as your personal representative for a long time, you may want to check to be sure that he is still okay with being named. As old relationships sever and new bonds are formed, you may wish to add and remove beneficiaries, too. Use these changes as an opportunity to review your entire plan.
Outside of these circumstances, it’s also a good idea to take a look at your estate plan at least once a year. Tax and estate laws occasionally change, and an annual review can help make sure that your plan both meets your needs and is still valid by law.
At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we have experience handling estates like yours every day. If you have any questions and would like to speak to one of our estate planning attorneys, please call us at (425) 460-0550 to arrange a private consultation.