Lots of people bring me their existing estate plans to review for them. Sometimes I get to deliver the good news that their documents were drafted correctly, their assets are protected properly, and their plans are up to date with the current laws and their present family situation. Unfortunately, more often than not, I have to tell them one or more of those essential plan elements is lacking or even missing. Of course the silver lining is that they caught it before it was too late to do anything about it.
I recommend every estate plan be reviewed at a minimum of every three years (and I do that for my clients as an added value benefit – at no additional charge). If you haven’t had your plan reviewed within the last three years, you should. And here are 5 triggers that mean it’s time to review your existing estate plan now, no matter how long it’s been:
Family changes. Marriage, divorce, birth and death are four family changes that should prompt an immediate estate plan review. If one of your beneficiaries dies, you will need to remove them from your estate plan. A new child or grandchild means adding beneficiaries. If your daughter gets a divorce, you will likely want to remove her ex from your estate plan but keep their children in. These circumstances can also trigger changes to those people designated as guardians, executors or health care agents.
Health changes. The state of your own health may dictate changes to your estate plan, especially when it comes to long-term care. You may want to help a family member who has no other resources for long-term care, or if you yourself suddenly need long-term care, you may need to provide a trustee with new instructions on the kind of care you want – i.e., staying at home with in-home help or paying to live in a senior living facility.
Work changes. You may suddenly want – or need – to retire, which could necessitate withdrawing from your IRA funds to support yourself instead of contributing more. If you have a family business, you may want to sell it or convert a sole proprietorship into an LLC or corporation, which could mean a significant change for your estate plan.
Market changes. If the total value of your estate has fluctuated by more or less than 20 percent, this should prompt an estate plan review. A significant gain could provide you with assets you may want to gift to children or grandchildren to reduce or remove estate taxes.
Law changes. Tax and estate laws change all the time, so reviewing your plan to ensure you are taking advantage of any new changes that could benefit you, or revising your plan so those changes do not adversely impact your estate, is critical.
To review an existing estate plan or create one, call our office today. Be one of the first five readers to mention this post and we’ll waive our normal planning/review fee (a $750/$1,000 value). As the holiday season approaches, there really is no better gift you can give yourself and your family.