I spend a good amount of time each month reviewing existing estate plans of former clients and non-clients. Very often the estate plans I am reviewing are those of a pair of empty nest parents, who want me to review the wills they created when their first born child was born. This is a very common scenario and I applaud these people for understanding that their estate plan needs change over time.
Here are just a few examples of when it’s a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed.
1. Your old plan was drafted when you either had no children or before all of your children were born. This is a common scenario and one in which we need to change your estate plan, as we want to make sure no one is accidentally cut out of your estate by reason of being born after you created your estate plan.
2. You have created significantly more wealth since your initial estate plan. This is a good problem to have, but one in which we need to make sure your estate plan still accounts for having a larger estate. Chances are it doesn’t.
3. We have a family member with special needs. Means tested benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security can be lost if a child or other designated beneficiary has special needs but receives an inheritance which disqualifies them from the benefits. The fix for that is called a Special Needs Trust. If you have a beneficiary who has special needs, you need to review your existing estate plan to make sure the disability they have is properly planned for and incorporated into your estate plan.
4. You have since divorced. Statistically, half of the marriages in this country end up in divorce. So there are a lot of broken estate plans sitting around. There are also beneficiary designations which need to be changed.
5. The people you named to be in charge are no longer in good health or you have lost touch. Twenty and thirty year old estate plans often run into this problem. If you created an estate plan that named your good friends as the guardians of your children or the executors of your estate and for whatever reason you are no longer good friends with those people, it’s time to make a change. Maybe Aunt Phyllis is too old to be burdened with serving as your durable power of attorney. Maybe your brother Greg, who used to be a bachelor with plenty of free time, can no longer serve as the trustee of your kid’s trust because he has kids of his own. All of these scenarios are common and a major cause of needed changes to an estate plan.
Whatever the reason, it is important that your estate plan changes as your needs changes. Our office will ordinarily review estate plans for free and can usually do so after reviewing the existing documents and a consultation.