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When You Need To Update Your Estate Plan

Mar 26, 2024 | Estate Planning

In spite of a very common misconception that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly, it’s actually for anyone who wants to have control over how their assets will be managed and distributed in the event of their death or incapacitation. An estate plan is an extremely important collection of documents that can prevent your loved ones from the complication of probate, and clearly outline healthcare, financial, and guardianship preferences.

It’s important to note that estate planning is not a “one and done” task. Even after you create an estate plan, it is pivotal that you continue to update your plan to ensure that it accurately reflects your current circumstances. In this blog, we will address certain changes and life events that require an update to your estate plan. Let’s dive in!

Life Changes That Trigger Updates

There are a variety of life shifts that trigger the need for updates to your estate plan, including, but not limited to, the following:

Marriage, Divorce or Remarriage – If you get married, divorced, or remarried, and you wish to either add or remove your spouse as a beneficiary or executor, it’s important that you do so as soon as one of the above occurs. If you were to divorce, but failed to remove your ex from your estate plan, your assets may still end up with them. In most states, a divorce automatically revokes gifts made to an ex-spouse in a will, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Name change – In either marriage or divorce, if you legally changed your name, it’s important to update your estate plan with your new (or old) name. You might face difficulty accessing certain documents down the road if they don’t reflect your current legal name.

Birth or Adoption of Children or Grandchildren – If you have children of your own, or if your children have children, you may want to add these loved ones as beneficiaries.

Death of a Spouse, Beneficiary, or Executor – If your spouse (who may also be both a beneficiary and executor) or someone else who was named as a beneficiary or executor, passes away, it’s important to remove them from your estate plan, especially if you wish to name someone in their place. You may even want to consider creating an entirely new will and trust.

It is especially important to adjust Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives if your deceased spouse was previously named in those roles.

Changes Within Your Relationships – If you have children, or other close relatives, it’s possible and natural for disputes to arise at some point in time; occasionally these family conflicts can escalate to a point that you no longer wish to keep a member of your family as an heir to your assets. If that is the case, it’s important to have them removed from your estate plan to prevent assets from going to the wrong people.

Significant Changes in Assets or Debts – If you were to lose your job (resulting in less income), receive a raise, or experience any other prominent surges or decreases in your financial status, you may want to add or remove assets from your estate plan.

You Purchased a Home – This is a huge asset that you definitely need to account for in your estate plan. To protect your home from the risk of probate, you may want to consider creating a living trust or a joint tenancy with right of survivorship.

Relocation to Another State or Country – Laws and regulations vary from state to state. If you move out of Pennsylvania, or to Pennsylvania, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the estate planning laws of this state (and to work with a local estate planning attorney) to ensure that your plan remains legally compliant and valid. It may not even be necessary to start completely from scratch, but it’s worth verifying.

Importance of Regular Reviews

Regularly reviewing your estate plan to determine if there are aspects that need updating are crucial if you wish to avoid unexpected challenges and ensure that your current desires are reflected accurately in your plan. Below are two tips that can help you be proactive in keeping your estate plan as accurate, and as up to date as possible.

  • Establish a Schedule for Periodic Reviews

While there is no requirement for the frequency in which you update your estate plan, establishing a schedule for periodic reviews of your will, trust, and other legal documents and designations is the best way to keep it updated. A good rule of thumb would be to check in with your estate plan every 3-5 years. However, if one of the previously mentioned changes occurs, that would be a trigger for a sooner update.

  • Seeking Legal Counsel for Professional Guidance

When you create or update an estate plan, enlisting the help of a professional is extremely important. An estate planning attorney will have the knowledge and understanding of Pennsylvania’s estate planning laws, and can guide you through the steps of updating your estate plan, or creating a new will or trust all together if necessary.

Consequences of Neglecting Updates

Failing to update your estate plan can lead to serious consequences. If your estate plan doesn’t effectively outline your financial situation and beneficiaries, your hard-earned assets could end up in the wrong hands. An outdated or inaccurate estate plan could also affect your family’s dynamics, and lead to arguments and disputes over who gets what. Furthermore, your estate may have to go through the probate process which can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

How Daly Law Offices Can Help

If you have yet to create an estate plan that provides a comprehensive overview of your assets, preferences, and wishes for your future, there is no better time than the present. That being said, our services don’t stop once the plan is established. We will be here for you in the years to come so that when circumstances in your life change, we can help your estate plan do the same. We will ensure that your updates align with any personal or financial shifts in your life, so that it accurately reflects your preferences and desires. Whether you need to make a plan or make a change, Daly Law Offices is here to help. Call now to schedule a free consultation and discover your next steps.

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