Creating an estate plan can cause feelings of relief and completion. Many people create their estate plan, check that item off the to-do list and then promptly forget about it. However, an estate plan is not something that should be forgotten about.
There are several circumstances when it is appropriate or even necessary to review and update your existing plan. Three common circumstances that warrant an estate plan update include if you move to another state, if your relationships change or if your financial situation changes.
Moving across state lines
Because estate planning laws can vary from state to state, it is important to review your estate plan as soon as possible after your move. If you do not create appropriate updates, you risk having a technical error that could result in an estate planning document, like a will, being challenged in court. You also risk some documents, like advance medical directives, being ineffective in your new home state.
Your relationships change
Life can be full of change. It is filled with births, deaths, divorces and marriages, and each of those situations should prompt a review of your estate plan. When a child or a grandchild is born, it can be important to make sure that person is included as a beneficiary in a will or trust. When someone dies, he or she may need to be taken out of your estate planning documents.
If you and your spouse get divorced, it may no longer be appropriate to name that person as the your personal representative or another position of trust, and you may want to make sure your ex-spouse receives as few of your possessions as possible. On the flip side, if you get re-married, you may want to include your new spouse in your estate plan.
Your financial situation changes
There are many reasons your assets or liabilities can change. You might have sold your house and moved to a smaller house. You may have split your assets with your former spouse during divorce. You also could have paid off a significant debt or started investing in valuable art. Whatever the reason, when your financial situation changes, you should make sure your estate plan reflects the change.
In general, your estate plan should always reflect your current situation and your current wishes. It can be prudent to review your estate plan at least once every three years, but it is especially important to review your plan after major life events.