2022 ESTATE PLANNING CHECKUP: IS YOUR ESTATE PLAN UP-TO-DATE?
This year, Estate Planning Awareness Week runs from October 17th to 23rd, and one of our primary goals is to educate you on the vital importance of not only preparing an estate plan, but also keeping your plan up-to-date. While you almost surely understand the importance of creating an estate plan, you may not know that keeping your plan current is every bit as important as creating a plan to begin with.
In fact, outside of not creating any estate plan at all, outdated estate plans are one of the most common estate planning mistakes we encounter. We’ll get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it was not properly updated. Unfortunately, once something happens, it’s too late to adjust your plan, and the loved ones you leave behind will be stuck with the mess you’ve left, or they could end up in a costly and traumatic court process that can drag out for months or even years.
Estate planning is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done type of deal. To ensure your plan works properly, it should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances and other changing conditions. Regardless of who you are, your life will inevitably change: families change, assets change, laws change, and goals change.
In the absence of any major life events, we recommend reviewing your estate plan annually. However, there are several common life events that require you to immediately update your plan—that is, if you want it to actually work and keep your family out of court and out of conflict. To this end, if any of the following events occur in your life contact us right away to amend your estate plan.
LIFE EVENTS THAT NECESSITATE AN IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF YOUR ESTATE PLAN
01 | YOU GET MARRIED:
Marriage not only changes your relationship status; it changes your legal status. Regardless of whether it’s your first marriage or fourth, you must take the proper steps to ensure your estate plan properly reflects your current wishes and needs.
After tying the knot, some of your most pressing concerns include naming your new spouse as a beneficiary on your insurance policies and retirement accounts, granting him or her Medical Power Of Attorney and/or Durable Financial Power Of Attorney (if that’s your wish), and adding him or her to your will and/or trust.
02 | YOU GET DIVORCED:
Because divorce is such a stressful process, estate planning often gets overshadowed by the other dramatic changes happening. Failing to update your plan for divorce can have terrible consequences.
Once divorce proceedings start, you’ll need to ensure your future ex is no longer eligible to receive any of your assets or make financial and medical decisions on your behalf—unless that’s your wish. Once the divorce is finalized and your property is divided, you’ll need to adjust your estate plan to match your new asset profile and living situation.
03 | YOU GIVE BIRTH OR ADOPT:
Welcoming a new addition to your family can be a joyous occasion, but it also demands entirely new levels of planning and responsibility. At the top of your to-do list should be legally naming both long and short-term guardians for your child. Our Kids Protection Plan offers everything you need to complete this process for free right now.
Once you’ve named guardians, consider putting other estate planning vehicles, such as a Revocable Living Trust, in place for your kids. These planning tools can make certain the assets you want your child to inherit will be passed on in the most effective and beneficial way possible for everyone involved. Consult with us to determine which planning strategies are best suited for your family situation.
04 | YOU HAVE A MINOR CHILD REACH THE AGE OF MAJORITY:
Once your kids become legal adults—which is age 18 or 21, depending on your state—many areas of their life that were once under your control will become entirely their responsibility. If your kids don’t have the proper legal documents in place, you could face a costly and traumatic ordeal should something happen to them.
For instance, if your child were to get into a serious car accident and require hospitalization, you would no longer have the automatic authority to make decisions about his or her medical treatment or the ability to manage their financial affairs. Without legal documentation, you wouldn’t even be able to access your child’s medical records or bank accounts without a court order.
To prevent your family from going through an expensive and unnecessary court process, speak with your kids about the importance of estate planning, and meet with us to ensure they have the proper legal documents in place as they start their journey into adulthood.