Do You Need to Review Your Estate Plan?

Major life changes, whether good or bad, can be so overwhelming that we fail to realize just how deeply they affect our estate plan. For example, if you get divorced, you need to update not only your will but also your 401(k) beneficiary designation, since the latter trumps your will.

Review your estate plan when life-changing events happen, such as:

  • Marriage, separation or divorce.
  • Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild.
  • When a child or grandchild becomes an adult.
  • When a child or grandchild needs educational funding.
  • Death of an heir.
  • Death or change in circumstances of the guardian named in your will for minor children.
  • Death or change in circumstances of your personal representative, executor or trustee.
  • Changes in the number of dependents, such as adding the caring of an adult.
  • A move to another state.
  • Significant changes to your or your spouse's health.
  • Significant changes to your or your spouse's financial condition.
  • Borrowing a large amount of money or taking on liability for any reason.
  • If you or your spouse receive a large inheritance or gift.
  • Career changes — new job, promotion, or if you start or close a business.
  • Retirement.
  • You are reaching 70 1/2 years old and have an IRA, 401(k) or other qualified plan that requires you to begin taking distributions. Check your beneficiary.

Each of these events can have a significant impact on you financially, and a review of your estate plan ensures your assets and legacy are passed on the way you want them to be and as smoothly as possible.

There's actually no definitive answer or secret magic formula on how often to review your estate plan. When life circumstances change and/or, as a rule of thumb, every few years — in the three-to-five-year period — is not a bad time frame to review things. Some folks review their estate plan yearly. If you build in enough flexibility, it should accommodate changes that life throws at you in one year.

What about changes in federal and/or state laws covering estate planning, taxes and investments?

This is especially relevant since we know laws change all the time. In December 2017, Congress passed a significant change in tax laws. Your estate planning attorney looks for changes in the tax law and how it may help you or make things easier on you.

One example is the estate tax exemption was raised so high that only the extremely wealthy are affected. This can make estate planning easier for you, perhaps. If you move to another state, however, your estate plan may be affected, as some states have much lower exemptions for a state-based estate tax. The point is that your estate plan doesn't remain static and, therefore, a periodic review process is warranted.

Contact our office to discuss how your life changes or changes in the law can trigger a reason to update your estate plan.

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