Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal. Your plan should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances and other changing conditions, such as your assets and the law.
No matter who you are, life will inevitably evolve: families change, laws change, assets change, and goals change. In the absence of any major life events, we recommend reviewing your estate plan annually to make sure its terms are up-to-date.
Additionally, there are several common life events that require you to immediately update your plan—that is, if you want it to actually work and keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, if any of the following events occur, contact us, your Life & Legacy Attorney, right away to amend your plan.
1) You get married: Marriage not only changes your relationship status; it changes your legal status. Regardless of whether it is your first marriage or fourth, you must take the proper steps to ensure your estate plan properly reflects your current wishes and needs.
After tying the knot, some of your most pressing concerns include naming your new spouse as a beneficiary on your insurance policies and retirement accounts, granting him or her medical power of attorney and durable financial power of attorney (if that is your wish), and adding him or her to your will or trust.
2) You get divorced: Since divorce can be one of the most stressful life events, estate planning often gets overshadowed by the other dramatic changes happening. Yet failing to update your plan after divorce can have dire consequences.
Once divorce proceedings start, you will need to ensure your future ex is no longer eligible to receive any of your assets or make financial and medical decisions on your behalf—unless that is your wish. Once the divorce is finalized and your property is divided, you will need to adjust your planning to match your new asset profile and living situation.
3) You give birth or adopt: Welcoming a new addition to your family can be a joyous occasion, but it also demands entirely new levels of planning and responsibility. At the top of your to-do list should be legally naming both long and short-term guardians for your child. Our Kids Protection Plan offers everything you need to complete this process. www.kidsprotectionplan.com
Once you have named guardians, consider putting estate planning vehicles, such as a revocable living trust, in place for your kids. These planning tools can make certain the assets you want your child to inherit will be passed on in the most effective and beneficial way possible for everyone involved. Consult with your Life & Legacy Attorney to determine which planning strategies are best suited for your family situation.
4) A loved one dies: The death of a family member, partner, or close friend can have serious consequences for both your life and estate plan. If the person was included in your plan, you need to update it accordingly to fill any gaps his or her absence creates. From naming new beneficiaries, executors, and guardians to identifying new heirs to receive assets allocated to the deceased. Be sure to address all voids the death creates as soon as possible.
5) You get seriously ill or injured: As with death, illness and injury are an unavoidable part of life. If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness or are involved in a life-changing accident, you may want to review the people you have chosen to handle your healthcare decisions as well as how those decisions should be made. The person you want to serve as your healthcare proxy can change with time, so be sure your plan reflects your current wishes.
6) You relocate to a new state: Since estate planning laws can vary widely from state to state, if you move to a different state, you may need to review or revise your plan to comply with your new home’s legal requirements. Some of these laws can be incredibly complex, so consult with us to make certain your plan will still work exactly as you desire in your new location.
7) Your assets or liabilities change significantly: Whenever your estate’s value dramatically increases or decreases, you should revisit your estate plan to ensure it still offers the maximum protection and benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Whether you inherit a fortune, take out a new loan, close your business, or change your investment portfolio, your estate plan should be adjusted accordingly.
8) You plan to buy or sell a business: If you plan to sell a business, you can engage in estate planning strategies to plan around how to handle your capital gains taxes. If you are buying a business, you will want to ensure your plan is updated to take into account your succession plans for the new business.
For every business you own, you should consider creating a buy-sell agreement or a business succession plan to protect both your business and your family in case something happens to you. In your estate plan, you can decide who will take over your role as the company’s owner should something happen to you. A comprehensive business succession plan can provide your successor with a road map for how the business should be run in your absence.
A Common Mistake
Outside of not creating any estate plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it has not been properly updated. Unfortunately, once something happens to you it is too late to adjust your plan, and the loved ones you leave behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.
Keeping your estate plan up-to-date is so important. We have created proprietary systems designed to ensure these updates are made on a consistent basis for all of our clients. Be sure to ask us about these systems during your visit.
Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, as your Life & Legacy Attorney, we are here to serve your entire family. We take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process (to the extent that you want them involved). This way everyone affected by your plan is well-aware of what your latest planning strategies are and why you made the choices you did. They also understand exactly what they need to do if something happens to you.
For The Love of Your Family
Our estate planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. We develop a relationship with you and your family that lasts for the lifetime of your children and their children if that is your wish.
We support you in creating a plan that keeps your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity. We also ensure that your plan is regularly updated to make certain that it works and is there for your family when they need it most. Contact us today to get started.
This article is a service of Reflections Life Planning LLC, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.