Many people assume they do not need to create an estate plan until they are older or retired but planning ahead to ensure your wishes are known and followed is always a good idea. If you currently have an estate plan, all is not done. Once you have executed documents that establish a foundation for your estate plan which may include a will, trust, financial power of attorney, and medical directives you may assume that you have completed your estate planning and will never have to review it again. However, there are many life events that may require changes to your documents to ensure they reflect your current wishes and intent. Failing to make changes in your estate plan can negatively impact you, your loved ones, and your future. You can update your estate plan at any time with the help of a qualified estate planning attorney.
You may wish to make changes to your current plan after the following life events:
Marriage or Divorce
If you do not currently have a will, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything will go to your surviving spouse when you pass away. Some states only give the spouse a fraction of the property left behind. If you have recently married, you may want to update your estate plan to provide for your new spouse and to ensure they are left with support. Additionally, if you are not married but have a long-term partner, you may also want to reflect this in your estate plan, as the law doesn’t provide for partners in the same way it provides for spouses.
If you have recently been divorced, you may wish to check your plan to ensure that your ex-spouse’s share is nullified, that beneficiary designations have been updated on life insurance policies and retirement accounts, and that the agent you have nominated handle your financial affairs and make medical decisions for you in the event of your incapacity reflect your current wishes
Having a Child
A major life change that can impact your estate plan is the birth of a child. If you recently had a child through birth, adoption, or even fostering, it’s important to determine someone to be a guardian if something happens to you and/or your spouse. If you’ve recently had grandchildren and wish to give them an inheritance, you also might want to rethink your existing plan. Oftentimes, it is advisable to hold an inheritance in a trust until the beneficiary matures and develops financial responsibility. If this is your intent, these types of provisions should be included within your estate plan.
Death of a Spouse
It is common for people to wish for their spouse to inherit everything when they die, but what happens when the spouse passes away first? If your loved one has suddenly passed away, you will need to nominate someone else as your power of attorney and healthcare proxy, as well as a trustee if you have a trust established. Your life insurance policies and retirement accounts should also be updated to include new beneficiaries.
Changes in Estate
Have you recently purchased new property or has the value of your estate changed? You may want to change how your property will be divided in your plan. If you recently received a large sum of money, which can occur through gifts or inheritances, you may also want to update your estate plan to account for these assets.
Changes in the Law
In recent years, significant changes have occurred in the tax laws. By way of example, previous estate plans may have included formula provisions for avoiding estate tax. The estate tax exemption amounts have changed and the exemption is now portable and may provide for additional planning opportunities to minimize future taxes. Additionally, other state and federal laws which may affect your estate plan may have recently changed. It is always recommended to review your estate plan on a regular basis to confirm it is up to date with the most recent changes in the laws.
Your Well-Being is Our Priority
A significant life change does not have to occur for you to want to change your estate plan. People change their minds about who they want to inherit for them or represent them in certain matters all the time. If you have recently had a change of heart and wish to review or change any part of your estate plan, don’t hesitate to call our attorneys at Bailey | Stock | Harmon | Cottam | Lopez LLP.
Call Bailey | Stock | Harmon | Cottam | Lopez LLP at (307) 222-4932, or contact us online for compassionate legal representation. Our estate planning attorneys can walk you through the steps of forming a comprehensive plan that protects your future.