When to Update Your Estate Plan

Most people invest a great deal of time and thought into putting together the proper estate plan to protect their families and their hard earned assets in the event of their death or incapacity. However, initially putting the estate plan together is just the first step in making sure that your estate planning goals continue to be met in the future. As we all know, one of the only constants in life is change, and your estate plan should be examined periodically to accommodate for it. A properly drafted estate plan should be reviewed every 3-5 years to accommodate for changes in your family, financial or personal circumstances.

Below are some common items that could prompt a change to your existing estate plan:

  • An individual that you have named as Trustee, Executor or as a beneficiary in your estate plan dies;
  • A birth or adoption of a child by you or a beneficiary;
  • Marriage or divorce of either you or a beneficiary;
  • Children or grandchildren reaching the age of 18;
  • A substantial increase or decrease in the value of your estate;
  • The acquisition or disposition of a significant asset;
  • A change in the personal relationship or circumstances with an individual named as Trustee, Executor or beneficiary;
  • Changes in relevant state or federal laws;
  • Disability or illness of you or an individual that you have named as a Trustee, Executor or as a beneficiary; and
  • Changes in debts or liabilities.

But are you putting the right people in charge of you and your estate if something should happen to you? Beyond changes in circumstances, there are other reasons to evaluate your estate plan to make sure that it is right for you. Given the uncertainty in the status of the estate tax laws, your living trust may need flexibility to accommodate for and protect your estate and family from future tax law changes coming at the end of 2012. Also, there are provisions you can add to your existing trust to protect your loved ones' inheritance from divorce claims of spouses, lawsuits, creditors and a potential second estate tax. You should also think about who has the right to amend your existing trust after you are gone, whether or not you are properly dealing with inheritances for step children and children, and whether you have chosen the appropriate person to manage your trust estate in the event that you are not able to do so. Fortunately, there are many quick ways to correctly address these and other common trust problems before they explode into a public and expensive dispute in probate court.