Many people may assume that once they have an estate plan in place, they feel that there is nothing left to do and put it aside, locked in their safe deposit box. But what was a proper plan then may no longer be appropriate.
A plan should be revisited every 3-5 years, or more frequently if there are changes in the law or your life circumstances. Doing nothing could have significant consequences.
Here are some factors to consider:
Changes in the Law: The law is always evolving. Changes in the law could significantly impact your estate plan.
Change in your marital status: If you have a birth, marriage, divorce or death in the family, you may want to review your estate plan and see if you need to make changes and minimize any risk of conflict. If you have been divorced, then you should update your estate plan to make sure that your former spouse is removed as beneficiary and fiduciary.
Change in financial status: If you received an inheritance or won the lottery, you should review your estate plan to see if your estate will be taxable. Receiving different assets could require a different approach to your estate plan to minimize taxes.
Changes in the Beneficiaries or Fiduciaries: You may want to update your estate plan if you want to add or take someone out as a beneficiary. Additionally, if you had minor children when you had set up your estate plan, you may consider whether they are ready to serve as your fiduciaries (successor trustees, health care agent, power of attorney, etc.). Has your fiduciary moved or is he or she still qualified to serve as your fiduciary? Will the changes affect your goals and your estate plan?
Moving to a new state: Different states have different legal requirements. It’s best to have a new set of documents that would meet your new state’s legal requirements. It may sound tedious after spending much effort and money on the previous estate plan, but you have done most of the work already and preparing new documents may be very simple.
Make sure to review your estate plan every three to five years even if there are no life changes. There may be little or no changes that need to be made, but when there are, ignoring these changes could be costly.
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.