The start of the New Year means it is once again time to think about when certain yearly to-do’s will get done. When will you get your annual physical? How about your annual eye exam? Don’t forget to make two appointments for teeth cleaning! When is your car due for its next oil change? How long has it been since you got a haircut?
In all the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget that your estate plan also needs a regularly scheduled tune-up. Ideally you should check in with your estate planning attorney on a yearly basis to see if anything needs changed, but below is a list of the top 3 things your attorney will consider so you can decide on your own if you need to schedule an appointment.
1. New and missing faces.
The number one reason estate plans need updating is the changing nature of families. Births, adoptions, and marriages bring new people into our families, while death and divorce take people away from us. It is important to make sure that your estate plan keeps pace with changes to your family tree.
You may think that you are fine because you used general terms like “grandchildren” in your estate plan instead of naming specific people, but the law may define that term differently than you do. For example, if one of your children marries someone who has a child from a previous relationship, you may consider that child to be one of your grandchildren now, but does the law see it that way?
To take it a step further, what if your child later gets a divorce? Would you still consider his or her ex-step-child one of your grandchildren? The law almost certainly would not, but you might.
Another thing to consider are the life-circumstances of the people named in your estate plan. When your children are minors, you should name a guardian for them and provide for them financially. Once they reach the age of adulthood, you will need to think of a new financial plan for them.
2. Medical issues and opinions about your care.
As you age, your opinions on medical care will likely evolve. The longer you live, the more interactions you will have with the medical system. What sort of experiences you and your family members have will shape your opinion about what sort of care you would like to receive in the future.
As your ideas change, the medical field will also change. Today there are many routine procedures that were considered extremely risky just a decade ago. Don’t force your loved ones into making a difficult decision because you didn’t update your healthcare directives.
3. Changes to the tax code.
If your estate is significant, changes in the tax code may be the biggest driver of changes to your estate plan. Exemption levels, rates, and rules tend to change frequently, so it is important to make sure that you are taking full advantage of the current tax code.
Even if there have been no changes on the national level, there may have been changes on the state level. These often get significantly less media coverage, so it is easy to miss out on news of a change. This is why we advise people to work with an attorney that is licensed in the state where they have the bulk of their estate.
Don’t Hesitate To Make An Appointment
This is just a quick list of some of the events that should trigger an estate planning update. Every person and every estate plan is different, so don’t hesitate to schedule a check-in appointment with your estate planning attorney even if nothing on the list above applies to you. It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to estate planning.