After you die, your estate plan determines who in your family receives your property. Most people draft their estate plan carefully to include terms that will age well and continue to reflect their needs even as their life circumstances evolve.
However, there are certain changes to people’s lives that can push them to revisit their estate plan. An outdated or inaccurate document that lists beneficiaries who are already dead or assets you no longer own can be more vulnerable to challenges in probate court. The four situations below are among the most common reasons that people choose to revisit or change their estate plan.
- Their marital status changes
After marriage, your spouse has certain rights to property and benefits through your employer. Most people want to offer their spouse the most protection possible by including terms in their estate plan that will allow for the smooth transition of ownership on major assets or that might protect their share of marital assets from claims by creditors.
On the other hand, some people choose to revisit their estate plan because they started planning with their spouse and have since divorced. Given that a spouse often features prominently in an estate plan, divorce often leads to changes.
- They start a business or acquire new property
Those who own complex and valuable assets like businesses or real estate often plan to address those assets when they die. People often use generalized language to talk about the disposition of their property in their estate plan, and such language may require changes or additions when someone has a major asset they want to handle separately from other property.
- They gain or lose a dependent
Life has a way of surprising people. Some families add a new child through adoption or unexpected pregnancy when most of the children are already near adulthood. Other times, families change when someone dies. Testators often revisit estate plans when they need to add a new beneficiary or remove someone.
- Their financial or medical needs change
Estate planning frequently involves planning for medical problems in the future, not just the distribution of someone’s property. Someone may find that they need to revisit their estate plan close to retirement if they believe they may need Medicaid in the future. Others may want to change their medical directive if they get diagnosed with a serious condition.
Thankfully, estate plans are documents that people can revisit when their life changes. Creating or updating an estate plan is often crucial to someone’s peace of mind and their long-term legacy.