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The mere fact of having an estate plan sets you apart from a majority of US adults and yet if you don’t take the time to ensure your plan remains up-to-date, all of the efforts spent setting it up could easily be for naught. After all, an estate plan is only helpful if it reflects your present priorities and circumstance. This means that every few years or any time a major life change occurs, your plan requires review. It also means entrusting an experienced attorney to notify you of any legislative updates that may affect your planning. And lastly, it means ensuring the software used to draft your plan remains current.
Life Changes That Mean Your Plan Needs an Update
In an ideal world, every adult would institute a basic estate plan upon reaching the age of majority. At a minimum, this would include a will, durable general financial power of attorney, and a healthcare directive. These documents, then, would require updating as different milestones are reached or unexpected changes occur. Specific events that trigger the need for an update include the following:
1. A New Marriage or Divorce
Anytime you hitch your wagon to another person’s or unhitch and change course, you need to ensure your estate plan reflects this new circumstance. Newly-married couples will want to revise beneficiary designations and ensure their spouse is named to the roles of estate executor, power of attorney, and healthcare representative. Similarly, a divorced couple will want to revise such designations.
2. The Arrival of Children
With children comes the responsibility of caring for their well-being no matter what might happen. This means adding guardianship designations to your estate plan and, perhaps, establishing a trust that looks out for your child’s financial needs should you lose the ability to do so. Lastly, any time your family grows, you want to revise beneficiary designations to ensure everyone is included.
3. A Change in Your Assets or Liabilities
When the value of your estate changes, your estate plan needs to follow suit. If, for instance, you sell a business or buy real estate, you want to ensure your beneficiary designations are updated and your financial planning takes this change into account.
4. You Move States
Each state has its own estate planning legislation and each is full of nuance. When you relocate across state lines, it is essential that you consult an experienced, local estate planning attorney who can advise you of any changes that need to be made.
5. Time Passes
Even if none of the above-listed major life events occurs, it is crucial that you review your plan every three to five years to reflect your shifting priorities. What is more, it is prudent to periodically update the software on which your plan has been drafted lest your loved ones are forced to show up to probate court with a box full of floppy disks.
The Life Program™ at the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm is one of our annual updating maintenance programs designed to keep our clients’ estate plans current. The program includes trust amendments, annual attorney meetings, funding support, proactive planning services, document storage, and, most importantly, a reciprocal commitment between our firm and the client aimed at ensuring no estate planning detail is ever overlooked.
To learn more about the Life Program™ or to address any other matter related to estate planning, do not hesitate to give us a call at 417-623-2062 or reach out to us via the contact form on our website.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm