When less than half of all Americans have even a simple will, the idea of telling people to review their estate plan on a regular basis seems almost futile. After all, you have to have an estate plan to review it. But for those who have gone through the process, it is just as important, maybe more so, to keep the plan current as it is to do it the first time. Any significant change can totally change the intentions you had when you originally had the documents prepared.
Most estate planning attorneys will advise their clients to come in for a review of their estate plan every three to five years. But in the fast-paced world we live in today, many things can happen in a three-to-five year span. Families are more mobile, moving from state-to-state for employment or other reasons, where wills and other estate planning documents may have different requirements to be valid. When half of married Americans are divorcing every year, those family documents will require updating.
Whenever the following “life events” occur, it is very important to contact your estate planning attorney for a review:
- When a family member dies, all documents should be reviewed to determine how that person’s death will affect other provisions of your will or trust. If that person was named as executor or trustee of your estate, you must decide whether you still want an alternate you have named to serve or to name someone else;
- Whenever you move to another state, you should contact your estate planning attorney to determine whether your new state of residence has different requirements for a valid will or trust. For example, some states require a different number of witnesses, some allow handwritten wills and some do not;
- If you or anyone named in your estate plan marries, divorces, or remarries, it is extremely important to review your estate plan. A divorce decree does not necessarily have any effect on your will, so an ex-son-in-law or ex-daughter-in-law may still be in line to inherit, even if he or she has married someone else before you die.
In addition to reviewing your estate planning documents during this process, also make sure to review any beneficiaries named on insurance policies and retirement accounts. As with a will, a divorce or death does not automatically prevent the named beneficiary from receiving those proceeds. As you can see, having a regular review of your estate plan with an estate planning attorney can prevent many unintended consequences.