Creating an estate plan isn’t something that you do once and then forget it. Instead, it is a process that requires ongoing attention and updates. Some people put off estate planning for far too long, leaving their loved ones and their assets at risk. Other people create an estate plan and then don’t change or correct it ever. Both of those approaches are mistakes.
An outdated estate plan can result in your leaving assets or responsibilities to someone who is no longer part of your family. That situation could also open your estate plan to challenges from heirs and family members. The most legally sound estate plans are thorough and up-to-date. The best way to handle estate planning is to create a comprehensive estate plan as early in your life as possible and then to update it routinely.
When should you update your estate plan?
There are certain life events that really require that you consider your intentions for your legacy. These events often involve a change in your family. The death of a loved one, a divorce or even the birth of a child can all affect your last will. Whether you divorce or one of your heirs does, you may need to review the terms of your last will or estate plan to make sure that it accurately reflects your current family situation.
After all, you likely don’t want to leave part of your estate to your former spouse or someone who was once married to one of your children. Updates to your will can also involve expansions of the pool of heirs and beneficiaries.
Even a change in the nature or tone of your relationship could be a motive for changing the estate plan you created for your legacy. In some cases, you may choose to remove someone from your will entirely. Other times, the best approach may include creating a trust that restricts how they can use the assets you leave for them.
Regular reviews of your estate plan is a smart idea
Ideally, you would take a little bit of time every year to go over your estate plan and see if anything has changed. Whether you have acquired significant assets, sold assets or experienced a change in your family, an overview will make it obvious when changes to your last will or estate plan are necessary.
While you are at it, you may want to expand your estate plan beyond just a last will to include a living will and possibly even a trust. Working with an estate planning attorney can help you create a comprehensive estate plan and keep it up to date.