Over the previous four issues, we have discussed trusts, wills and other various estate planning tools. You may think that once you have a will drafted and executed or a trust document created, you are done with your estate planning. That is not entirely true. There is constant maintenance that must performed to make sure that your wishes are carried out as desired. An estate plan covers a specific set of financial circumstances. When your circumstances change, your overall estate plan may have to change as well. The following events necessitate a review of your estate plan:
Births: A new child or grandchild means new needs that you’ll want to cover.
Deaths: The death of your spouse, children, other beneficiary, your executor, or child’s proposed guardian may require major changes or a simple substitution of a new name.
Marriages: Your own marriage certainly calls for reviewing your plan, but children’s marriages may also make adjustments necessary.
Divorces: An update is definitely necessary if you divorce, and a review or change may be necessary if a beneficiary divorces. If your will leaves all of your assets to your divorced spouse, but you are remarried and really want your new spouse to receive your estate in the event of your death, the will must be updated and changed to reflect this desire. Many probate fights occur between the current and former spouse of a decedent. These problems can easily be avoided.
Inheritance: When one generation passes its wealth to the next, those who inherit often suddenly have radically altered financial circumstances. The death of a spouse can also make a review and changes necessary especially when life insurance proceeds and employee benefits are involved.
Moves between States: The settlement of your estate will be governed by the laws of the state where you are a resident when you die. While general principles may be the same throughout the country, each state has different laws affecting wills and trusts. Legal differences could invalidate some provisions of a plan that was designed in another state.
Business Changes: You definitely need an estate plan review if you start, buy, or sell a business or if you enter into a buy-sell agreement to sell your business when you die. A review and update is also needed if the legal structure of your business changes or upon the death of a partner or other business officer.
Tax Law Changes: Revisions in the federal tax law are continuing and constant. Some of these changes could drastically change your estate plan.
With so many possible events and changes affecting your estate plan, it’s best to review it regularly. Your estate planning counsel and advisers can help you check over your plan as time goes on and events occur so that you can keep your estate plan in line with changes in tax laws and your life.
The information contained in this article should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. Tax laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning in your local area regarding the information contained in this article.