Do you have an estate plan? If so, you are doing better than the majority of Americans. However, this is just the first step. Scheduling periodic estate plan reviews with an attorney is important as your life progresses. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that you schedule a free estate plan review every 3 to 5 years to be sure that your plan is up to date with any changes that may have occurred in the law.
We will often send a reminder to our clients in the Southcoast, South Shore, Cape Cod and surrounding areas if their estate plan hasn’t been reviewed in 3+ years. However, if any of these events have occurred in your life recently, you should schedule a review as soon as possible.
The 6 Life Events That Require an Estate Plan Review:
- Death – Reviewing your estate plan is necessary in the event of a death. This is not limited to the death of a beneficiary. The death of a trustee, executor, or guardian should also prompt a review of your plan. A good estate plan should include provisions relating to the death of any of these individuals, but situations change over time. In some cases, the person or persons named to inherit property or take over as fiduciary are no longer suitable for such a role.
- Birth – The birth of a child or grandchild can change the dynamics of an estate plan. Future-born beneficiaries should be part of an estate plan, but in some cases it is best to include them by name.
- Marriage – Your own marriage should certainly be cause for a review of your estate plan, but the marriage of a beneficiary is also cause for such a review. In some cases, people want to name the spouse of a beneficiary as trustee to manage assets for grandchildren or to inherit outright. In other cases, people want to make sure that the new spouse of a beneficiary will never have access to that beneficiary’s share of the estate. A properly drafted estate plan can account for either situation.
- Divorce – Most couples name each other as the primary beneficiary in their estate plan and on other financial assets. When a divorce is finalized, the estate plan and all other assets should be reviewed to make sure that the ex-spouse is no longer entitled to inherit assets. A recent review of a client’s estate plan revealed that he had his former wife, whom he had divorced many years ago, as beneficiary on his life insurance policy. His new wife was very happy we brought this up!
- Moving – Moving to a different state should always prompt a review of an estate plan. While some documents will be valid and enforceable in any state, other documents will need to be revised to comply with the new state’s law. Probate and Medicaid rules may also be different in the new state. The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys has attorneys in most states who would be qualified to review your estate plan.
- Assets – acquiring new assets or selling/liquidating old ones should be cause for a review. An increase in assets may be need for a change in the provisions of the estate plan. For example, if you named one person as your only beneficiary and assets have increased substantially, you may now want to spread the wealth a bit. On the other hand, if assets have decreased substantially and you had left substantial sums to charities or other organizations, you may want to change the distribution plan.
We meet with clients every three to five years to review their plans. But if one of these events, or just life in general, has changed your situation, please contact us to schedule a meeting.
Lantz Law, Inc.
TOLL FREE (MASS): 1-800-406-0100