Having an estate plan is important, but having one means only part of your job is done.
A plan has to be complete and current.
Not enough people have an estate plan, but of those who do…
A high percentage let their plans become outdated.
Sometimes having a plan that isn’t current is worse than not having a plan at all.
Estate planners usually prefer you touch base every year or two.
There’s something to be said for that guideline, but it’s too much for a lot of people.
They don’t want to spend that much time and money on estate planning.
There’s a middle ground between that approach and the set-it-and-forget-it model.
There are five questions you should ask every few months.
The answers tell you when it’s time to visit your estate planner.
1. Here’s the first question about updating your estate plan… Do I still have the right people in charge?
One topic addressed in this book is that the wrong executors or trustees can foil even the best estate plan.
The agents who can act for you under either a financial or medical power of attorney also are critical choices.
Review the choices in your plan.
Especially if your plan has been in the file a few years, the choice might not be ideal today.
Perhaps the reliable relative, friend, professional, or employee you selected has different circumstances.
People grow older, move, take on too many other capacities, or have other changes in their lives.
Your contacts with a person might not be as frequent as they once were, so the person isn’t as familiar with matters.
Or perhaps your estate has changed in ways that make your original choice unsuitable.
Maybe your estate is larger or more complicated than it was.
The executor, trustee, and agents are the keys to ensuring your plan is implemented as you intended.
Keep in touch with them and regularly reconsider your selection of them.
When you think a change might be in order, talk with your estate planner.
2. Here’s the second question about updating your estate plan… What’s changed in your life?
Major changes in your life are the most frequent reason that a visit to the estate planner is in order.
Marriage and divorce are the big changes, and your state law might automatically invalidate all or part of your will if your marital status changed.
But your marital status is not the only important one.
A change in marital status of any beneficiary in your will should cause you to consider the consequences.
There are a host of other changes that are critical.
Your plan might need to be revised if you have new children or if children grew into adulthood.
The introduction of a grandchild or changes in a grandchild’s life also might alter your will.
Changes in your health or the health or a loved one also might require changes.
Perhaps your net worth is different than anticipated in your current plan, in either a positive or negative way.
Or the structure or your assets or liabilities has changed.
Maybe you started or sold a business or investment real estate.
Or you own different types of investments.
You could have new or different charitable interests.
Over a few years, small, gradual changes that we take in stride could compound to make your situation very different from the one contemplated in your plan.
Some of these changes require only a small change, such as a codicil (amendment) to the will that includes a new grandchild.
Others require you to reconsider all or significant provisions of your plan.
In next week’s edition, we’ll complete the list of 5 questions for updating your estate plan.
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