Maybe you thought that creating a Will or Trust is something you can do once and then your family and assets are protected forever after. It seems to be how most lawyers structure their services, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you did think this. You work with your lawyer, they draft documents, you bring them home in a binder or notebook, put them on a shelf or in a drawer, and you never hear from them again. Estate plan, done. But, it’s not. Thinking of it this way could leave your family with a big mess when something happens to you.
In reality, life events can drastically affect your estate plan and even cause your plan not to work in the way you intended. To make sure your plan remains up-to-date throughout your life, we recommend reviewing your plan at a minimum of every three years. Because I am so passionate about this, I offer to review my clients' plans every three years for free.
And, if any of these ten life events happen before your three-year plan review, you’ll want to have your plan professionally reviewed right away. Let’s take a closer look at these ten life events and how they can affect your estate plan and what changes may be required.
01 | Your Assets or Liabilities Changed
Life is full of changes, and your financial situation is unlikely to stay the same over time. Changes in your assets, such as acquiring a new home or other assets, selling property, or incurring debt should prompt a review of your estate plan. You may need to update asset distribution, beneficiary designations, and financial provisions to reflect these changes accurately and ensure that the people you love receive what you intend when you die. Most importantly, you need to update your asset inventory every time your assets change, and if you do not have an asset inventory, update your plan to ensure you have an inventory included. The biggest risk to your family in the event of your incapacity or death is that they do not know what you have, where it is or how to find it. We solve this by creating and updating your asset inventory, regularly.
02 | You Bought, Sold, or Started a Business
Owning a business adds another layer of complexity to your estate plan. If you’ve recently bought or sold a business, it's essential to update your plan to reflect what you want to happen to your business when you die, ensure a smooth transfer of ownership (if desired), and create a plan to protect your business assets for yourself and your loved one’s future.
The financial and personal value of your business can be a significant gift to your loved ones both today and for years to come - if you know how to incorporate it into your estate plan in the right way.
03 | You Welcomed a Child to Your Family
Welcoming a new child into your family is an incredibly joyful moment. As a parent, it's essential to update your estate plan to include provisions for your child's well-being and financial future. This includes naming Guardians for minor children, creating a Kids Protection Plan®, and ensuring their financial security through Trusts or other means. It’s also important to document your wishes for your child’s education, religion, and values in your plan so that their legal Guardians will know how you would want your child raised if something happened to you.
04 | Your Minor Child Reached the Age of Majority (or Will Soon)
As your children grow up and reach the age of majority, it’s time to review how they will receive their inheritance, make sure someone can legally make healthcare decisions for them, and manage their money in the event they become incapacitated. Depending on their level of maturity, you may want to consider if they are ready to handle assets on their own and if so, what amount.
An even better idea is to provide lifelong protection of your child’s inheritance through the use of a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust. By using this estate planning tool, your child’s inheritance can be used to support your child’s future while safeguarding its use and protecting it from any potential future lawsuits or divorces your child may face later in life. This ensures that your children are financially secure as they head into adulthood while also supporting your children with financial responsibility.
05 | A Loved One Dies
The loss of a family member is emotionally devastating, and it can significantly affect your estate plan. If a deceased loved one was a recipient of assets under your Will, Trust, or financial accounts, it's crucial to update these documents to make sure your assets will be distributed to the right people. Additionally, if the deceased individual was designated as a Trustee or Executor of your estate or a Guardian of your minor children, you will need to appoint new individuals to fill these roles.
Planning for Life's Changes
Your estate plan is the foundation that protects your family and your finances today and in the future. But estate planning is not a set-it-and-forget-it task; rather, your estate plan should change and evolve with the changes in your life.
We’re here to guide you through life’s changes to keep your estate plan up-to-date and effective, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your plan will work exactly how you want it to when your loved ones need it most.
If you've recently experienced a significant life event or it's been a while since your last estate plan review, now is the time to review your plan. If you haven’t created an estate plan yet, it’s better to plan early than to have no plan at all.
To get started, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call to learn more about my process where we’ll discuss your family dynamics and goals, address any changes in your life, and create a comprehensive estate plan that brings you peace of mind.
Plus, don’t forget to return next week when I’ll be discussing five more life events that signal it’s time to review your plan.
This article is a service of Ralston Law, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.