If you own a car, you know it requires regular maintenance in order to perform well and be reliable. When you purchased your car, you probably received a recommended schedule for service. If you follow that schedule, most likely your car will continue to work well. If you don’t follow that schedule, you are taking the chance that your car will let you down.
Did you know that your estate plan also needs to be “serviced” on a regular basis? Your estate plan is a snapshot of your life the way it was at the time it was created. However, over time your family structure, your assets, and the tax laws change, so you should set a schedule to have your plan reviewed to make sure it doesn’t let you down.
So, when should you have your plan service? Any change in your personal, family, financial, or health situation should prompt you to review your estate plan. But, in general, I recommend that you pick a date that you will remember to review the plan each year. Your cue to remember this might be a birthday or anniversary… just any date that will jog your memory and allow you time to sit and read through your plan.
If you think a change is needed, don’t write on your estate plan. Call your wills and trusts lawyer. Hopefully your attorney operates like we do and does not charge for quick questions like these. You should be able to pick up the phone and speak to your attorney to ask whether your plan needs a tune-up.
Better yet, you should ask your lawyer whether she has a formal maintenance program that includes regular, formal check-ups. There are some things that might impact your plan that you don’t know about, such as changes in federal or state laws, or life changes that you may not recognize as affecting your estate plan.
As a guide, I’ve provided a list of a few events that should prompt you to review your plan:
You and Your Spouse
- You marry, divorce, or separate
- Your or your spouse’s health declines
- Your spouse dies
- Value of your assets change dramatically
- Other changes to your assets, such as opening new retirement accounts, life insurance policies, or changing banks
- Change in business interests
- You buy new real estate, such as rental property, a vacation home, or real estate in another state
Your Family (and heirs)
- Birth or adoption
- Marriage or divorce
- Finances change
- Parent / relative becomes your dependent
- Minor becomes an adult
- Attitude toward you changes
- Health declines
- Family member dies
- Federal or state tax laws change
- You plan to move to a different state
- Your successor trustee, guardian, or administrator moves, becomes ill, or changes their mind
- You change your mind
I hope that this list gives you an idea of whether you need your plan reviewed. If you need some help looking at your plan, I welcome you to contact our office to discuss an Estate Plan Checkup.