Many people prepare their wills and then never change them. That’s a mistake. If you have a will, trust documents, powers of attorney, or other estate planning documents, you should review them periodically, especially after a significant life change.
Your estate will hopefully grow as your age. The people you choose to help you may move, die, or not help for other reasons. Your children’s needs change as they grow and when they reach adulthood. You may want to change beneficiaries or add beneficiaries.
According to Moneycrashers.com, a financial website, you should review your estate plan after:
- A marriage. You’ll want to ensure that your spouse is protected. If the marriage occurs after a divorce, you’ll want to ensure that your ex-spouse is removed as a beneficiary – except to the extent you want to provide for your children. You will likely want to include any stepchildren due to the new marriage. In addition to updating your will, you may want to name your spouse as your power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.
- A divorce. Just as you add provisions for your spouse, you will likely want to terminate or modify them if you and your spouse divorce. You will also likely want to change any powers of attorney or other legal documents that give your spouse control over your finances on your assets.
- The birth or adoption of a child. You need to ensure that a guardian is appointed for your newborn in your will. Otherwise, unless a relative steps forward, your child may be placed in foster care if you and the child’s other parent die while the child is a minor. You also want to add your child to the will as a beneficiary, obtain or increase your life insurance, and take other steps to ensure there’s money to raise your child when you’re gone.
- Certain milestones. You may want to update your wills and other estate planning documents if a child weds, becomes a parent, or the child turns 18.
- Special needs. Suppose a child develops special needs that make the child eligible for government disability benefits. In that case, you’ll need to consider a special needs trust to ensure your child can receive the government benefits and the funds from the trust agreement.
- Disability or illness. Suppose a beneficiary, executor, guardian, or another person who is affected by your estate plans (such as a business partner) becomes ill or disabled. In that case, you should consult with experienced Harrisburg lawyers who can protect your interests and help you take care of the disabled person if you want to.
- You relocate outside of Pennsylvania. State laws generally govern wills, estate administration, and many other estate planning manners. If you move to another state, you should speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer in that state.
- The relationship between you and a beneficiary changes. If you don’t want your beneficiary to receive any part of your estate when you die, then you need to update or change your will.
- A significant change in your assets. When you acquire a house, a new business, pay off your bills – or the reverse happens and your fortunes sour – then you should review your estate with an experienced estate planning attorney. Other assets that may necessitate a review of your estate include investment interests, lottery winnings, and other changes in your finances.
If your business starts to take off or begins to fail, you should review the value of the business and any business succession plans with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Employment changes such as a new job, promotion, or loss of a job also mean you should review your estate documents.
Other changes that may require reviewing your estate planning goals and documents include:
- A change in your debt status.
- If there is a change in any federal or state tax laws.
You should meet with your estate planning lawyer every three to five years as a rule of thumb.
Updating your will and other legal documents helps ensure your goals for your family and others are met. In addition, the updates help give you peace of mind. Generally, minor changes such as changing the executor can be accomplished through a codicil for wills. However, major changes require a new will.
At Antanavage Farbiarz, we’ve been advising Harrisburg residents for 70 years. We’ll explore your goals and needs. We’ll explain your options and the pros and cons of different legal documents. Finally, we’ll help give you the comfort of knowing you have the right estate planning documents. To speak with our office, call us at (610) 562-2000 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.