Estate Plan Checklist: Is It Time For A Checkup?
How is your estate plan looking these days? If you created it years ago and have not kept it up to date, it might not match up with your wishes anymore. Our lives hardly ever remain static for an extended period of time, so it’s only natural that an estate plan would slowly—or sometimes rapidly—fall out of sync with our current reality. Ask anyone to create a high-level estate plan checklist, and you might get a few different versions, but they generally look something like this:
- Take stock of your assets
- Define your goals
- Meet with an attorney to create the right plan
- Revisit the plan from time to time to make sure it’s up to date
It’s very easy to lose track of this fourth component because it’s natural to think, “That’s done, now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” However, sometimes an out-of-date estate plan can be just as bad as having no plan at all.
Why You May Need to Change Your Estate Plan
As circumstances in your life change, it is likely that your approach to estate planning and the legacy you want to leave behind will change as well. Here are some of the most common reasons that may cause someone to need to update their estate plan.
Marriage & Divorce
When people marry, they, of course, want to provide for each other, but they usually also want their new spouse to be involved in the planning process. There are probably new family members to consider, and marriage often brings new assets into the equation. On the opposite side, divorce involves a complicated disentangling of previous estate plans.
Increase in Assets
Our assets profoundly affect our estate plans. As we work, save, and invest, it’s common for our assets to increase as we get older. This may create considerations that did not exist before. For example, a person who once rented an apartment may later have rental properties of their own; that rental income could go into a trust for a family member or charitable organization.
Death or Birth of Family Members
Since most estate plans deal mainly with leaving assets to family members, it is expected that the plan should change as the family changes. In addition, as people pass away or children are born, you may need to make some major updates.
Changes in Attitudes and Opinions
This can cover a wide variety of situations. For example, you may have previously planned to leave a greater share of assets to a particular child because you thought they needed it, but now that’s no longer the case. Or, if you have created a health care directive—which we highly recommend—your thoughts on the subject may have evolved over the years.
Making the Necessary Changes
However your life changes, it is critical that your estate plan changes with you. First, review your current plan and make sure it matches your wishes. If not, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over from scratch, but you should essentially repeat the original process: 1) Take stock of your assets; 2) Define your goals, and 3) Meet with an attorney to help you put the new plan into action.
Our team of experts is ready to meet with you to ensure you have the estate plan you want. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and we’ll help you review your estate plan checklist.