Estate planning is a process that many people find uncomfortable, which explains why so many people wait as long as possible before trying to create a last will. It also explains why most people prefer not to think about their legacy once they have created a plan or will.
Unfortunately, pretending that your estate plan is infallible after a single planning session with an attorney is a very common mistake people make. As circumstances in your life and family change, you will likely need to revisit your estate plan and change or expand it. There are three common reasons that people have to make changes to their estate plan.
People in your family die and have babies
Many adults wait until they have children to begin estate planning. It is common for people to split their assets among their children while also leaving certain items behind for spouses and close friends. However, the size of your family at the time that you initially create your last will likely won’t be the size that remains for the rest of your life.
You may have children, or you could lose loved ones unexpectedly at young ages. Your children could also have kids. When you add new dependents to your family or someone you name in your last will passes on before you, it is important to update the last will to reflect the new members of your family and thus ensure its overall accuracy.
Getting married or divorced will impact your estate plan
Under Pennsylvania law, your spouse is the one who stands to inherit the majority of your assets if you die without a will. Some people share all of their accounts and feel like they don’t need a last will. Other people may name their spouse in everything from power of attorney documents to trust documents.
When you get married or end a marriage, you want to revisit things. Removing a former spouse from documents is as important as extending protections to a new partner.
Your financial circumstances and assets change substantially
Maybe you have purchased more real estate or perhaps you inherited something from a family member who recently passed away. When your assets increase in quantity or complexity, it is of utmost importance that you address those assets in your last will and estate plan.
In some cases, the creation of a trust is the best way to handle complex assets and large estates. Other times, shared accounts or gifts during your lifetime can ensure a smoother transition of ownership. Exactly how you structure your statement and what legacy you leave behind will depend a lot on your wishes and the decisions you make now.
Consulting with an attorney who understands estate and probate law in Pennsylvania will make it easier for you to create an initial estate plan or modify it when your life circumstances change.