A good set of estate plans must be updated in order to remain reliable and do what they are designed to do for you. But as life goes on, it might be easy to forget to make changes to your estate plans and leave it on a backburner, causing your documents to not be there for you when you need them.
Life is fluid and ever-changing, and so should be your estate plans. As a rule of thumb, your estate plans should be updated every three to five years or so, if there have been no major life events in the interim or shortly after something occurs, like a birth, death, divorce, or change of residence.
Have You Moved to Another State?
If you decide to move to another state after retirement, your power of attorney documents may no longer be valid. This also goes for other documents, since estate laws vary in each state and may cause your original documents to become invalid. You will also want to establish proof that you changed residence, if you do not wish to be surprised by learning that your estate may still be fully taxable in your old state of residence.
Have There Been Additions to Your Family?
If you have recently had an addition to your family, such as the birth of a grandchild, your documents should be revised to include the name of the new family member. This avoids any potential conflicts or litigation in the future. The same goes for when you need to subtract someone from the family—whether you or a child recently got divorced or someone died, this needs to be reflected in your estate documents.
In some situations, it may be necessary to add strict stipulations to how a child is allowed to spend any inherited money, if this individual has been showing irresponsible behavior or is suffering from a mental health condition (such as addiction) that may compromise the integrity of the estate or result in your life savings being spent recklessly. You may also wish to disinherit someone altogether.
Has the Value of Your Estate Changed?
You should also keep an eye on any changes in the value of your estate. Whether your estate increased or decreased in value, your documents will need to be updated to reflect that. This is also important to do when you make significant changes to your estate, such as selling or acquiring a business or real estate.
As a general rule, estate planning is not a one-and-done task that can be filed in a drawer indefinitely. Every major life change results in the need for an update to your plans. This can be as simple as sitting down with your law firm for estate planning and discussing the recent changes. This should be done every three to five years, at the very least, and will help you ensure your estate planning documents are current, valid, and able to do what they were designed to do—protect your family and your legacy for generations to come. If you need help updating your estate planning documents or have questions about elder law matters, contact Crow Estate Planning and Probate, PLC to learn how we can help you make the required changes and protect your assets.