Five Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan Before the New Year
By Jeana Goosmann
As the New Year approaches, many people will find themselves contemplating the successes and challenges of the past year. However, many people will fail to consider one important detail – how the past year’s events might have impacted their estate plan.
Estate plans stipulate how and when the distribution of a person’s assets will take place. If skillfully drafted, they can help individuals avoid unnecessary fees, taxes, and stress in addition to ensuring peace of mind. But estate plans can’t work effectively if they fail to reflect the changes that have occurred within a person’s life.
If you have experienced any of the following five events since you formulated your estate plan, contact an estate planning attorney. He or she can update your plan so that you can head into 2017 confident that your assets are protected.
1. Marriage, Divorce, or Death of a Spouse
Marriage, remarriage, divorce, and death all significantly impact how you wish to distribute your estate. However, your estate plan does not update automatically when any of these events occur, so you will need to change it to reflect your new situation. An attorney can assist you by reviewing the situation’s impact on your finances, updating your beneficiary designations, and more.
2. Financial Changes
If you’ve experienced a substantial change in financial status, you may need to revisit your estate plan as well. Financial changes can increase or decrease the different estate planning opportunities available to you. An attorney can ensure you obtain the best tax and inheritance benefits accessible to you in your situation.
3. Birth or Adoption of a Child / Grandchild
If the birth or adoption of a child or grandchild has occurred, you will need to update your estate plan if you wish to designate him/her as a beneficiary. In addition, an attorney can you help create all necessary Gifting Trusts, 529 education plans, gifting plans, and UGMA / UTMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act / Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) accounts. You should also consider if you would like to designate a legal guardian for the child/grandchild in your plan.
If you’ve relocated, your estate plan may not be in compliance with your new state’s laws. Laws concerning medical directives, last will and testaments, living trusts, property power of attorney, and IRA’s all differ from state to state.
Many other life changes can impact your estate plan. Have an estate planning attorney review your situation and determine necessary estate plan updates if any of the following occur:
● Your children or grandchildren reach adulthood
● Your relationship status changes in any way
● Your beneficiaries develop addictions which could impact their ability to handle your estate
● Guardians, executors, or trustees are no longer able (or no longer desire) to serve as such
● A beneficiary becomes disabled and therefore requires a special needs trust
● Your children’s designated guardian moves or becomes unable to act as a guardian for any reason
Estate plans can be powerful tools. If you want to safeguard your assets and ensure they are distributed according to your wishes, an estate plan is not only recommended, but necessary. As you think back on the last year, be sure to consider how all of life’s changes could potentially impact your estate plan. And if any of the above has occurred, make contacting an attorney and updating your estate plan a priority. Possessing an up-to-date estate plan can only make your New Year more happy and peaceful.