Procrastination is quite common in the world of estate planning, as people often have a list of excuses concerning why they aren’t quite ready to put together an estate plan yet. Those who have drafted estate planning documents might make the mistake of setting them aside and assuming that they don’t need to worry about their medical vulnerability or financial needs ever again.
However, estate plans can become outdated in a matter of a few months if there are major changes to someone’s preferences and/or circumstances. Some experts recommend reviewing estate plans every year or so, just to ensure they address someone’s needs appropriately, but people will also need to intentionally review their documents immediately if they experience one of the four situations detailed below.
1. Changing one’s marital status
Getting married or divorced will mean major changes to someone’s daily life. Spouses also often feature heavily in estate planning paperwork, which means that those getting married will need to add a spouse to their documents, or those getting divorced will need to remove their spouse from their paperwork.
2. Adding new children to the family
Every new child is a potential new beneficiary, and parents often need to update their documents to mention each child or grandchild by name. Children also require guardianship designations to ensure that there will be someone to provide for them if something were to happen to the parents.
3. Changing family relationships
Sometimes, parents have a falling out with one of their children. It might be a difference of political opinions that causes a dispute, or perhaps it is just a history of unbalanced relationships in the family. Whatever the underlying cause, when there has been a significant disruption to a family relationship, a testator may need to adjust their paperwork to remove someone as a beneficiary or to replace them as agent or trustee in their paperwork.
4. Receiving a new medical diagnosis
Estate planning often seems like the act of contemplating a far-flung future, a few things make the need for protection seem as immediate as someone’s diagnosis with a significant health issue. Those about to undergo treatment for cancer or recently diagnosed with a degenerative medical condition may need to adjust their advance directives or expand their estate plans to include more documents than they originally drafted.
Those who frequently update their estate planning documents to reflect changes in their lives will benefit from certain protections regardless of what the future holds. Remembering the importance of up-to-date and accurate estate planning paperwork after a change in one’s life will make it easier for people to optimize their efforts.