Creating an estate plan is a complex process, using many interdependent documents to create protections and benefits that align with your wishes for your property and your beneficiaries. In most cases, an estate plan works in concert with a will, which requires regular review and possible amendment to account for numerous potential complications.
If the various pieces of an estate plan and last will are not properly working together, then many important protections may not function properly when it comes time to execute the will and move the estate plan forward. Often, these complications occur because of life changes experienced by the creator of the plan or the named beneficiaries. In addition, estate plans require regular review every several years to account for constantly changing states and federal laws affecting planning and taxes.
If you have any concerns about the strength of your own estate plan, be sure to carefully consider the options you have available and make it a top priority to take action in these areas. You may save yourself and your beneficiaries great headaches and frustration in the long run.
Life changes to consider
It is usually wise to review your will and estate plan anytime that you experience a significant change in your life circumstances, such as:
- Getting married or remarried
- Getting divorced
- The death of a spouse or other beneficiary
- The birth or adoption of a beneficiary
- A significant increase in your income, assets or liabilities
- Significant material losses to your estate
- Shifting priorities or changes in your relationships that may affect your wishes for your estate
Similarly, if any of your beneficiaries experience similar major life changes, or if their needs change and your dispersal to them is proportionate to those needs, you should consider reviewing and updating the terms of your will and estate plan.
It is also important to make sure that your estate plan is fully functional and not simply a collection of documents with the appearance of usefulness. If, for instance, you name certain assets in a trust, but then fail to properly deed them to the trust, then naming those assets is not only ineffective, it creates a disparity in your plan that your trustee or executor must address before the issue can resolve.
Changes in relevant laws
Your estate plan may be well constructed, but state and federal laws that govern small and large aspects of estate planning and taxation change regularly, often without much notice or media coverage. Be sure that you review your plan every three or four years to make sure that the protections and advantages your plan employs still operate the same way.
However it is that you choose to address your estate planning needs, do not put off this important task. Protect your legacy and your loved ones with careful, timely planning to ensure that your wishes remain secure long after you are gone.