“Like your preventive doctor visits, you should regularly check in on your estate plan to ensure that it’s in good shape for when it’s needed.”
For most people, estate planning includes preparing a last will and testament, trusts and important advance directives to prepare for incapacity, including Power of Attorney and a designation for a health care surrogate. Creating a comprehensive estate or updating an estate plan is on many people’s “to-do” lists, says a recent article from Kiplinger, “Estate Plan Check-Ups: Don’t Just Set It and Forget It.” Like most items on those never-ending lists, the goal is to get it done and move on to the next task. However, unlike some duties, the estate plan needs to be reviewed regularly.
Think of taking care of your estate plan as you do your annual physical, which is necessary even if you are healthy in the future. Your estate plan may be healthy now. However, you want to be sure it stays that way by having check-ups on a regular basis. If you have not gone for your physical or had your estate plan reviewed in a while, there are two appointments you need to make for 2024—one with your physician and the other with your estate planning attorney. Here is why:
Life is all about changes, from birth to death, marriage to divorce. Each of these life events may impact your estate plan. If your will was created before you were married or had children, it needs an update. The same is true if you leave your entire estate to an adult child who has proven to be less than responsible about money or choosing good friends.
Laws impacting estate plans change often. Changes in tax laws, estate planning regulations and inheritance rules could have already made your estate plan ineffective or invalid. Regular reviews with your estate planning attorney can ensure that your will takes advantage of new opportunities presented by these changes.
If your net worth has changed over the years, for better or worse, your estate plan needs to reflect those changes. Let’s say you own two pieces of real estate—a home and a vacant piece of land. If your old estate plan leaves the house to one child and the vacant land to another, their values may have changed dramatically in the last few years.
Beneficiary designations are part of your estate plan, even if they are not in your will or advanced care directives. Any account with the ability to name a designated beneficiary should be checked whenever you update your estate plan. If you do not, you may be passing assets on to ex-spouses or excluding new family members.
By regularly updating your estate plan, you can ensure that it reflects your wishes and will be effective in protecting your loved ones.
Reference: Kiplinger (Jan. 26, 2024) “Estate Plan Check-Ups: Don’t Just Set It and Forget It”