What is estate planning? Think of it as an opportunity to honor a life well-lived. With a well-conceived estate plan in place, you can leave specific instructions for your heirs and create exactly the legacy you envision, while sparing them undue heartache at an already stressful time.
The first step is to organize all your assets and sign each important estate planning document on the dotted line. But the process does not end there. Experts advise reviewing your estate plan every couple of years to make sure all the information is current. Just how often you actually sit down to update your estate plan will also depend on your life’s path. There are many milestones that can alter your finances or your plans for distribution. When planning your estate, any of the following life events can potentially lead you back to the drawing board.
As your kids grow up, get married, and have families of their own, you may want to make changes in your estate plan to include gifts to the grandkids and sons or daughters-in-law.
A new diagnosis may require a change in the directives to your health care power of attorney. Your loved ones need to know how far you wish to go with your care and treatments should you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.
A Change of Heart
Over time, your relationships with those you’ve appointed trustee or power of attorney may change. You may discover that you and your chosen medical power of attorney see issues like palliative care very differently. Or you may have met someone new whom you would like to put in place as a trustee. It’s important to make those amendments sooner than later.
Change in Marital Status
Whether divorced or widowed, a change in your marital status can impact critical components in your estate plan. Issues like beneficiary, trustee and powers of attorney may need to be reconsidered.
Whether in the plus or minus column, changes in finances must be addressed in your estate plan. Selling the family home or business or suffering a financial reversal can dramatically alter your circumstances, making updating imperative.
Estate laws vary from state to state. If you have moved to the mountains or the sunshine, or to the active adult community of your choice, be sure to consult an estate planner who is familiar with the laws of your new residence and can update your plan as necessary.
Re-Tying the Knot
If you are newly struck by Cupid’s arrow, congrats. But keep in mind that re-marriage will impact existing estate plans. Update your plan as soon after the wedding as possible to avoid any conflicts between your children and your new spouse later.
Losing a Loved One
A death in the family, or of a close friend can significantly impact your existing estate plan. Be sure to replace any trustee or executor and update your list of beneficiaries.
Let’s be honest. Nobody is going to put estate planning at the top of their most fun things-to-do list. Try to remember it’s like a gift you order and carefully wrap today that will be deeply appreciated tomorrow.