Keep your Estate Plan Up-to-Date

It's a good idea – and likely even a requirement – that you review and revise your estate plan occasionally. This should be accomplished every three to five years, or whenever something major happens in your life or the lives of one of your beneficiaries, trustees, guardians, or executors. Things happen, circumstances change; it's highly improbable – no matter how well you've planned – that you'll never need to adjust or amend your estate plan at some time during your life.

Listed here are some of the most common reasons that people revise their estate plans:

Your financial situation changes. You inherit lots of money. Your company goes public. You get fired. You declare bankruptcy. Good, bad or ugly, a big financial change usually means that you should review your estate plan to determine whether your choices still make sense.

You have additional children. Asking someone to be the guardian of one child can be quite different from asking them to raise two or three children.

Your children get older. As they grow, your choices for guardians will probably change. Perhaps your children might want to live closer to home; perhaps they've grown close to a relative you didn't name as guardian when they were small; perhaps your guardians are getting too old to handle teenagers, or simply changed their minds and no longer want the responsibility.

Guardians, trustees, or executors move far away. When the people you've chosen to take care of things move away, you might need to choose someone else closer to home.

You have a major disagreement with your guardians, trustees, or executors. Friendships end from time to time, and siblings may quarrel even more regularly. Sometimes that means you have to make alternative choices.

Your guardians get divorced or remarry. If your guardians change their family situation, you might want to re-evaluate your choices.

You get divorced or remarry. In either case, you should review your will, trusts, beneficiary designations, and life insurance needs.

You move to another state. Estate planning is state law-specific, so you'll need to ensure that your will, trusts, durable powers of attorney and health care directives are valid in your new home state. Other state-specific issues to watch out for:

  • Custodial gifts to minors. A few states have yet to adopt the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, so you might need to revise how you've left minors money in the care of a custodian. Additionally, different states require custodianships to end at different ages.
  • Marital property. If you move from a community property state to a common law state or vice versa, and you don't intend to leave half of everything to your spouse, you'll need an attorney's help to make sure that your plan is drafted properly under your new state's rules.
  • Domestic partners. If you move from a state that recognizes the rights of domestic partners to a state that doesn't or vice versa, you should again get an attorney's help to review your existing plan to make sure that you're taking care of each other in the best possible way.

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