When Do You Need to Update Your Estate Plan?

Estate planning lawyer explains when you need to update your estate plan to clients.

When you make an estate plan, you have a great sense of accomplishment and peace of mind, knowing that you have put in place necessary legal protections for your and your family’s future. To keep those protections current, you need to review and update your estate plan periodically or as certain events in your life occur. In this discussion, our estate planning lawyers at Sloan Law Firm explain when you need to update your estate plan to ensure that it conforms to changes in your circumstances.

Changes in Your Family

Any change in your family may mean that you need to revise your estate plan. Marriage and divorce — yours or that of a family member — are common reasons that trigger the need to update your plan. The failure to include marital changes can significantly affect how your estate is distributed.

The effect on your estate plan due to your own marriage or divorce is fairly obvious, but the change in a family member’s marital status can also have a substantial impact. For example, if your adult child gets married, you should review your estate plan to make certain your financial legacy passes to those you want to receive it, by addressing the possibility that your child’s marriage might end in divorce.

Other family changes, such as the birth or death of a family member, may also trigger the need to update your plan. The arrival of grandchildren is a common reason that individuals want to change their estate plan, because they wish to make certain that grandchildren eventually share in the estate.

Changes in your family may also affect your fiduciary designations if you appointed a family member as the executor of your estate, as your agent under a durable power of attorney or advance medical directive, or as a trustee. Reviewing your plan with your estate planning attorney ensures that all your beneficiary and fiduciary designations are consistent with your current circumstances.

Major Changes in Your Life or Your Goals

In addition to family member changes, major differences in your life or in your goals can affect your estate plan. For example, if you move to another state, it’s essential to review your plan with an estate planning lawyer in your new state, to make certain all your documents satisfy the legal requirements in that state. If they are not consistent, significant issues can arise, causing unnecessary and costly delays at critical times, such as if you become incapacitated temporarily or permanently and need medical care.

As you grow older, your goals and needs change — and your estate plan should be adjusted to accommodate those changes. The estate planning needs of a young couple with small children are very different from those of a married couple with adult children.

When you start thinking about retirement, you should review your estate plan to make sure that it is consistent with your retirement goals. Depending on your retirement plans, it may be beneficial to make changes to your estate plan. When you reach your 50s and 60s, your estate plan should accommodate potential long-term care needs as well.

Significant Financial Changes

When you create an estate plan, your lawyer structures the plan based on your personal and financial circumstances. That means your plan should be reviewed not only when your personal circumstances change, but also when your financial situation changes. A significant increase or decrease in assets, no matter how it occurs, is likely to affect your estate plan. A change in the nature of your assets may have the same effect.

Financial changes may occur because of a shift in your business ownership interests, a change in the nature of your assets (such as acquiring real estate investments), or simply a substantial market change that affects the value of your assets. Any major acquisition or divestment of assets or change in the value of assets may affect your estate plan.

Your financial situation may occasionally be affected by major changes in federal tax law as well, like those that occurred in 2017 and 2019. If you become aware of major tax law legislation at the federal or state level, you should check with your estate planning lawyer to make sure your estate plan reflects any changes that impact it.

How to Keep Your Estate Plan Current

As a general rule, you should review your estate plan every three to five years. That vague guideline is easy to forget for most people. A better approach to keeping your plan current is to review your circumstances annually at a specific time, such as the beginning of a new year or after you finish your taxes.

In most years, your annual review will be nothing more than quickly running through a mental checklist to identify changes in your personal or financial situation that may affect your estate plan. But in the years where there was a significant change, you will know that it’s time to call your estate planning lawyer and review your estate plan.

Talk with a Kansas Estate Planning Lawyer

Our estate planning attorneys at Sloan Law Firm can help you update your estate plan to conform to your current personal and financial situation. We handle the full range of matters relating to estate planning, including preparation of wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, and other important estate plan documents. From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, our lawyers assist clients throughout the state. We invite you to contact us by calling (785) 357-6311 or using our online contact form.