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A well-designed estate plan can almost sound too good to be true. It can allow you to maintain control of your assets during your lifetime, yet protect you should you become incapacitated. It can take care of your family and even pets – both upon your incapacity or at your death. And, if carefully crafted, it can reduce administration and legal fees, taxes, stress, and time delays. Estate plans even help keep your family and financial affairs private. Unfortunately, one thing estate plans can’t do is update themselves.
Estate plans are written to reflect your situation at a specific point in time. While they have some flexibility, the bottom line is that our lives continually change and unfold in ways we might not have ever anticipated. Your plan needs to reflect those changes. If not, it may not work as you intend when you need it the most.
While you may not need to make changes this often, we recommend you review your estate plan every three to five years and any time there is a major life event. If anything in the following five categories of major life events has occurred in your life since you signed your estate planning documents, call Littleton Legal now to schedule a meeting. We’ll get you in ASAP to make sure you and your family are still protected.
- Marriage, Divorce, Death. Marriage, remarriage, divorce, and death may all require substantial changes to an estate plan. Think of all the roles a spouse plays in our lives. We’ll need to evaluate beneficiaries, trustees, successor trustees, executors/personal representatives, and agents under powers of attorney.
- Change in Financial Status. A substantial change in financial status – positive or negative – generally requires an estate plan update. These changes can be the result of launching, winding down, or selling a business; business and professional success; filing bankruptcy; suffering a medical crisis; retiring; receiving an inheritance; or, even winning the lottery.
- Birth, Adoption, or Death of a Child / Grandchild. The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild may call for the creation of gifting trusts, 529 education plans, gifting plans, and UGMA / UTMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act / Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) accounts. We’ll also need to reevaluate beneficiaries, trustees, successor trustees, executors/personal representatives, and agents under powers of attorney.
- Change in Circumstances. Circumstances change. It’s a fact of life – and when you’re the beneficiary or fiduciary of an estate plan, those changes may warrant revisions to the plan. Common examples include:
- Children and grandchildren attain adulthood and are able to serve in trusted helper roles (successor trustee, executor/personal representative, and agent under powers of attorney)
- Relationships change and different trusted helpers need to be named
- Beneficiaries or trusted helpers develop overspending or drug / gambling habits
- Guardians, executors, or trustees are no longer able (or no longer wish) to serve in their previously assigned roles
- Beneficiaries become disabled and need a special needs trust to receive government benefits
- Guardians for minor children divorce, move to a new state, or are otherwise no longer appropriate to serve
- Changes in Venue. Moving from one state to another always warrants an estate plan review, as states’ laws differ. Changes may be needed to ensure that you’re taking full advantage of – and not being penalized by – your new state’s laws. This is also true when purchasing a second home outside of your state.
Estate Plans Are Created to Help, Not Hurt, You
If you’ve experienced any of the changes we’ve mentioned in this article, it’s time to come in and chat. We’ll review your estate plan and make sure you and your loved ones are protected. Contact Littleton Legal PLLC today by calling 918-608-1836.