Estate planning isn’t typically something you do once and then forget about. It’s best to review your estate plan on a regular basis to make sure it’s still in line with your current life circumstances. Attorney Steven Holman provides insights on what life events can impact a change or prompt a review of your existing estate plan.
Here are some major life events that could trigger the need to revise your estate plan.
1. Changes in Marital Status
If you have recently married, you need to update your estate plan to provide for your new spouse, ensuring they receive support when you’re gone. It’s commonly assumed that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically inherits everything. This is often not the case. How a deceased person’s assets are divided and distributed can get very complicated if there is not a valid estate plan in place. This is also the case if the estate plan was not revised to include the surviving spouse. Updating the estate plan ensures a much smoother distribution of assets.
Likewise, if you get divorced after establishing your estate plan, you should consider revising your plan. Depending on your current wishes, you may want to redirect your ex-spouse’s share of your estate. Your current circumstances and desires have probably changed since getting divorced. Beneficiary designations may need to be updated on financial accounts, retirement plans, and life insurance policies. If you named your spouse as your agent to handle financial affairs and make medical decisions, you may need to update your power of attorney document. Divorce often triggers the need for revisions, as your wishes for who you want to act on your behalf have likely changed.
Similarly, the death of a spouse can impact an individual’s estate plan. Many married individuals leave their estates to their spouse. If that spouse dies first, without contingencies for that possibility, the Will may not be helpful. In this case it will be up to probate court to determine how the estate will be divided. Additionally, the death of a spouse could create the need to name another agent in power of attorney and healthcare proxy documents. This also applies if your estate plan includes a trust in which your spouse is named as trustee. Furthermore, new beneficiaries may need to be designated for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
2. The Addition of Children And Grandchildren
If you have a child through birth, adoption or fostering you should review and update your estate plan. It’s important to name a guardian in your estate plan, for each child you have. This ensures the child will be cared for should something happen to you and your spouse before they reach adulthood. Furthermore, there are special provisions that should be included in your estate plan, regarding the distribution of the assets to heirs who are minors at the time of inheritance.
You should also consider your children from a prior relationship or marriage if you are thinking about marrying again. Under Texas law, your children and new spouse may have to share your assets in a manner that no one wants, creating family discord that could have been avoided. Visiting with an estate planning attorney can help you understand options to set up those you love with meaningful gifts in a way that preserves family harmony.
Having grandchildren could also be a reason to make changes in your current estate plan, if you wish to leave them an inheritance.
3. Financial Changes And Acquiring New Assets
If your financial situation has recently changed, then you may need to rethink your current estate plan. Some of the most common financial changes that trigger the need to change estate plans include the following:
- Purchasing a home
- Selling a home
- Receiving an inheritance or gift
- Starting a business
- Selling a business
- Significant changes in property or asset values
If you’ve experienced any significant financial changes since establishing your estate plan, you should consult with an estate planning attorney. An experienced attorney can help you understand the effects that your new circumstances have on your estate plan and help you with any necessary revisions.
4. A Change in Your Health or Incapacity
An estate plan is often designed to take care of you and your family as you age. This includes who takes care of your financial affairs. Often, it also includes provisions about who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Significant medical changes, such as being diagnosed with a terminal or degenerative illness, may necessitate quick revisions. You can only make changes to your Will or power of attorney if you have the capacity to do so. If you have recently experienced a significant medical change, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to help you navigate the next steps for updating your estate plan.
5. Moving To A New State
If you’ve recently relocated to a new state, it’s important to review your estate plan. Your new state laws could significantly affect your current plan. Estate and inheritance laws vary from state-to-state, as do property laws. These laws in your new state could greatly impact how your assets are passed to your beneficiaries.
If you have recently relocated to Texas, or will be soon, you should consult with a Texas estate planning attorney, as evaluating and revising an estate plan can be complex.
Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney After (or Before) a Life-Changing Event
It’s not only a major life change, like those mentioned in this article, that warrant a need for estate plan revisions. Over time, our wishes can change. Your desires for who should inherit your assets and who should act on your behalf might change. If you have had a change of heart regarding your estate beneficiaries or agent designations, your estate plan may need to be updated. You should speak with an estate planning attorney about updating your plan to ensure it reflects your new wishes and desires.
The law firm of Holman Law LLP, located in Dallas, Texas, specializes in estate planning for individuals located in the greater Dallas Fort Worth area. Our top rated attorneys can assist you with establishing your estate plan or with updating your existing plan. Call us at (972) 474-7828 or contact us through our website to schedule your free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.