So, you have finally gotten around to the task of planning for the future by working with an experienced estate planning attorney and you’re feeling responsible and self-satisfied. Before you get too cocky, however, remember that your estate plan will have to be reviewed on a regular basis — typically every 3 years or when a major life event occurs — in order to keep up with life’s inevitable changes. Here’s why:
Your Marital Status May Change
Though you may have decided to prioritize your career and remain single, it is still possible that you will fall head over heels in love and find yourself at the altar. On the other hand, your stable marriage may unexpectedly veer toward divorce. Or, after a messy divorce, you may be certain you have found the person you were meant to be with all along. If you remarry, it is likely that you will become part of a blended family, becoming a stepparent.
Marriage, separation, divorce, remarriage, and even widowhood are common. If your marital status changes, many estate planning documents — including your will and trusts you may have created — will have to be revised.
Your Family May Enlarge
It only takes 9 months for a person who previously didn’t exist to become a central figure in your life. That little person will require changes to your estate planning documents since she or he will become a beneficiary and will have to be provided with a prospective guardian if you and your spouse become incapacitated or die. Adopting a child will require the same changes to your will and possibly other documents.
You May Relocate
If you move, it may be due to another change in your personal life, such as marriage or a job promotion that will necessitate alterations to your estate planning documents. Also, if you move to another state, the tax laws may be different. A competent, knowledgeable estate planning lawyer will be able to help you update your plan efficiently and effectively.
New People, Causes, or Charities May Become Important to You
As your life progresses, new friends, interests (e.g. a sport, artistic endeavor, desire to collect or travel), and/or charitable organizations may become a new focus. You may want your estate planning attorney’s assistance in setting up a trust to protect assets for future excursions, to promote medical research or to bequeath to a particular educational institution.
Births and Deaths Will Have to be Factored into Your Estate Plan
Your own children and/or stepchildren will grow up and, often, have children of their own. A whole new bevy of grandchildren may become yours to love and consider as beneficiaries. As in-laws multiply in your extended family you may or may not want them to inherit your assets in cases in which your blood relative predeceases the other parent. Such complexities can easily be addressed in documents your attorney drafts or revises.
Though hard to consider, there is the grim possibility that one of your beneficiaries may predecease you. If you suffer this tragedy you will want to make sure that, when your assets are distributed by your executor (personal representative) this death will be taken into account.
Your Financial Situation May Change
While it’s unlikely that you will win the lottery, you may inherit money, start or purchase a business, purchase a second home to rent out, sell off a major investment or in some other way alter your assets. This may make it necessary for your estate planning attorney to help you reorganize your trusts to limit your tax exposure.
Other Changes in Circumstances May Occur
In addition to the changes listed above, there are many other common reasons to review and make changes to your estate plan, including:
- Estrangement from a beneficiary or named guardian
- Child or grandchild who is born with special needs
- Family member who is traumatically injured or becomes seriously ill
- Family member who develops a drug problem or addiction to gambling or overspending
Life Is Never Static
Your estate plan must be reviewed on a regular basis in order to keep up with the changes that will continue to occur. A capable attorney will always make regular appointments with you to update your will and other legal documents to make sure that you and your family are well-protected and secure. He or she is not a mindreader, though, so whether you are contemplating a major change, or hit with an unexpected one, make sure you notify your estate planning attorney.