It can be such an accomplishment to complete an estate plan that many people check the task off their lists and stop thinking about their estate plan altogether. However, estate plans are not intended to be created and then forgotten about.
Estate plans work best when they reflect current laws, your current wishes and your current circumstances. When laws, wishes or circumstances change, it may be necessary to review and update your estate plan.
Change can be expected over time, so many people get into a routine of reviewing their estate plans with a professional every year to every three years. However, there are several circumstances that should prompt a review as soon as possible.
Your financial situation changes significantly
If the value of your estate changes significantly, you should take steps to have that change reflected in your estate plan. You may need to determine if it still makes sense to divide your assets the way you previously decided. In some cases, a change in assets or liabilities could even affect the overall goals of your estate plan.
Significant changes to your financial situation could include selling a valuable asset, like a house or a business. Significant changes could also include purchasing a valuable asset, like jewelry, art or a vacation home.
Your family changes
When your family experiences changes, it may also be time for changes to your estate plan. For example, if you divorce your spouse, you may want your spouse removed from your estate plan wherever possible. However, when a new child or grandchild is born, you may want to add that child's name to your estate plan. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces and remarriages may all merit changes to your estate plan, along with any other family changes that may affect who you name in your estate planning documents.
You move out of state
Estate planning laws can vary from state to state. These laws can affect the type of estate planning documents that are available, the requirements that must be met for a document to be legally valid and the amount of tax your estate may be subject to, among other changes. If you move to a different state, you may need to update your estate plan to make sure you use the most appropriate strategy for your current situation and that all of your documents are legally valid in your new state.
Your estate plan will work best when it is kept up to date. To help ensure your estate plan will work as intended, it is important to update your estate plan every few years, as well as anytime you experience significant life changes.