Surprisingly, over half of all Americans do not have an estate plan in place, despite acknowledging the importance of having one. If you are among the minority, and you have an estate plan in place, you can rest a little easier knowing that you, your assets, and your loved ones are protected. Do not, however, make the mistake of assuming that you are done with estate planning once you have a plan in place. On the contrary, creating an initial estate plan is only the beginning of successfully ensuring that your estate and your loved ones are protected throughout the course of your life and beyond. Toward that end, the Londonderry estate planning lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices remind everyone of the importance of reviewing and revising an estate plan.
How Often Should I Routinely Review My Estate Plan?
Among the commonly offered explanations for the lack of an estate plan is the belief that one is too young, or lacks sufficient assets, to need an estate plan. The truth, however, is that every adult needs at least a basic estate plan to ensure that the state doesn’t dictate how the assets you do own are distributed after your death. If you have minor children, your Last Will and Testament is also the only official opportunity you have to appoint a Guardian for those children in the event one is ever needed. As you move through the various stages of your life, changes in your life will prompt the need for corresponding changes to your estate plan. Many of those changes can be addressed during a routine review of your estate plan. As a guideline, most estate planning attorneys suggest you conduct a routine review and revisions of your estate plan every three to five years during your 20s, 30s, and into your 40s. Reviewing your plan more frequently during those decades is necessary because you are likely to experience larger life changes during that time period, such as marriage, parenthood, and significant changes in your asset portfolio. From your 50s onward, a review of your estate plan every five to seven years is usually sufficient to incorporate any routine changes.
- Marriage — if you get married, you will want to add your spouse as a beneficiary throughout your plan, including un your Will, your life insurance, and retirement plans as well as potentially designate your spouse as your Agent in an advance directive and/or plan for your spouse to take over for you in the event of your incapacity.
- Divorce — if you get divorced, don’t forget to remove your spouse as a beneficiary in your Will, life insurance policies, and retirement plans or your (now) ex-spouse will likely benefit from your death! You also need to remember to change an advance directive and other documents that transfer control to your ex-spouse.
- Beneficiaries reach the age of majority – when your children are minors they cannot inherit from your estate. Therefore, your estate will likely include a trust to protect their inheritance. Once the last child reaches the age of majority, you may wish to change your estate plan to include direct gifts to your children instead of gifting through a trust.
- Death, incapacity or retirement of a fiduciary – throughout your estate plan there will be several opportunities to appoint people to fiduciary roles, such as Executor, Trustee, or Guardian. If a fiduciary dies, becomes incapacitated, or retires, you will need to appoint someone to take his or her place in your plan.
- Retirement – your own retirement will likely cause significant changes to your financial portfolio which should, in turn, trigger the need to make changes to your estate plan.
- Move to another state – because much of the laws relating to Wills, trusts, and estates are made at the state level, a move to another state should prompt consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in that state to see if any changes need to be made to your plan.
- Major change in assets – your existing plan should contemplate the purchase and sale of assets; however, if your financial picture changes significantly, you may need to make a corresponding adjustment in your estate plan. For instance, if you inherit a substantial amount of money or other valuable assets, that inheritance needs to be incorporated into your estate plan.
Contact Londonderry Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please download out FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Londonderry estate planning lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.