If you have an estate plan in place, you're in the minority: 51% of Americans age 55 to 64 don't even have a Will. The odds are good that your personal and financial situation will change at some point. So you need to periodically review your estate to make sure it reflects your current goals and requirements.
Even if your estate plan was crafted by a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney, you'll want to talk to him or her if any of these things occur:
- Marriage or Re-marriage. This doesn't automatically change the provisions of your will or trust and won't necessarily provide for your new spouse. Talk with your attorney to ensure your plan reflects your new goals, both individually and as a couple.
- Divorce. After a divorce your goals will probably change and so should your estate plan. When your divorce is finalized, revise your plan as quickly as possible to reflect your new goals and intentions.
- Children. When you have a child or adopt, you'll probably want your son or daughter to be the recipient of your estate, and you need to appoint a legal guardian for your child in the event you and your spouse die or are incapacitated.
- Injury or Illness. If you (or one of the members of your family) become seriously ill, you may want to consider changing your estate plan to reflect their increased needs. For example, a special needs trust lets you leave assets in a trust that will not disqualify him or her from receiving government benefits.
- Change of Plans. With time your goals and intentions naturally change, and your estate plan should reflect your current intentions, not the goals you had five years ago.
- You inherit. If you or your spouse expect to get a sizeable inheritance, there may be new opportunities to reduce taxes or provide creditor protection. The increased value of your estate may also mean you change how your assets will be distributed when you die.
- Buy or sell a business. If you purchase a business, you may want to create a succession plan. If you sell your business, the capital you receive may require a different plan for asset distribution and reducing the tax burden for your heirs.
- Moving to another state. Estate planning documents are generally legal from one jurisdiction to another, but each state has its own laws. If you move from a separate property state (like Virginia) to a community property state (like California), you might want to convert your separate property to community property to take advantage of favorable income tax treatment.
If you experience any major personal or financial event—like marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, or selling or buying a business—review your plan with an experienced estate planning attorney to make certain all of the changes are incorporated. Even if your personal situation hasn't changed, you should have a periodic review with your attorney to assess the impact of changes to federal and state laws.
Reference: Forbes (January 28, 2016) "8 Reasons to Revise Your Estate Plan Today"