Creating a will and an estate plan is an excellent way to protect your property and make your wishes regarding your estate known. Unlike a nice crockpot dinner, however, an estate plan is not is not something one can simply set and forget.
In fact, many aspects of a will and its associated estate plan require regular review and maintenance to provide the most accurate direction to a trustee or executor and protections for the estate and beneficiaries. A will that includes provisions that do not align with changes in the will creator's life circumstances or applicable laws may result in complications when it comes time to disperse the estate. This could lead to legal challenges that can drain its resources and turn an already difficult experience into a protracted legal dispute between beneficiaries and other parties.
If it has been longer than three or four years since you reviewed your will and estate plan, or if you experience any significant life changes like those we discuss here, be sure to prioritize reviewing and possibly amending your planning documents. An experienced estate planning attorney offers resources and guidance to keep your wishes and rights protected through each stage of life.
Life changes that may affect estate planning
Any time that you or one of your beneficiaries experiences a significant life change, it may affect your estate plan. These changes may include:
- Your own marriage, divorce or remarriage
- The marriage, divorce or remarriage of one of your beneficiaries
- The death of a beneficiary
- Birth or adoption of a beneficiary
- Changes in the needs of your beneficiaries, if their estate dispersal considers their needs
- Significant increases in your estate's assets or liabilities
- Significant losses to your estate
- Changes in your own preferences regarding your estate
Any of these changes may warrant reviewing and amending your will and estate plan. Failing to do so may create unnecessary complications and ultimately harm rather than help the ones love.
Changes in the law
Even if you do not experience any of these changes, many tax and estate planning laws affect the details of estate planning significantly. If you do not account for these changes, you may create needless complications. At both a state and federal level these laws often change without much notice or public knowledge, and can derail a well-constructed estate plan if not addressed in a timely way.
However you choose to move forward, do so carefully and intentionally. Your estate and your loved ones deserve proper care and attention, and your legacy may depend on your attention to these details.