As an estate planning attorney in Cary, I commonly see people who understand the importance of the initial estate planning but then forget that they need to keep their wills and trusts up-to-date. These documents aren’t something that should just be done once and then tucked into a drawer never to be looked at again. Actually, there are several times during the course of your life that you need to dig out your wills and trusts and make changes.
- Marriage – Obviously, when you get married, you will have a new spouse to consider when it comes to things like inheritance, living wills, and powers of attorney.
- Divorce – If you don’t relish the thought of your ex receiving your estate, you may want to meet up with your estate planning attorney to make some changes.
- Children – The addition of a child should trigger a need to reevaluate your will and other documents. Estate planning is often thought of as a way to care for your children after your death, and that can only be done if you keep your documents current with the birth of each child. Similarly, as your children get older, you should consider whether you need to update any of the provisions you made for them in your original plan.
- Purchases – If you acquire new assets, whether in the form of real estate or something else of value, you will want to call your estate planning attorney to be sure it is covered in your will.
- Health – You may find that certain health conditions cause you to reconsider the wishes outlined in your living will. This ensures that your loved ones and healthcare providers are apprised of your decisions.
- Insurance – Over the course of your insurance policy’s life, you may find that you want to change the terms, such as the type of coverage you have or the beneficiaries of your policy. When changes like this occur, it is important to have an estate planning attorney reflect that in your legal documents.
- Your “Helpers” — You are not the only one that will experience changes in your life–your “helpers” (i.e., your executors, trustees, agents, etc.) will also experience life changes. Review your list of various helpers and consider whether your list needs updating.
- Moving — If you move within state, consider whether you need to update any of your emergency helpers, such as emergency guardians if you have minor children. If you move to a different state, have you your plan reviewed by an attorney in your new state of residence to determine whether any changes need to be made to accommodate differences in state law.
- Opening New Accounts — Any time you open a new account, it’s important to make sure that accounts are titled properly and beneficiary designation forms are properly completed. Over time your accounts may change–you change banks, take out more insurance, or open new retirement accounts after a job change. It’s important to make sure that these new accounts fit in properly with the rest of your planning.
An estate planning attorney will be current on federal, state, county, and city laws and will be able to guide you as you keep your wills and trusts up-to-date. This protects you and your beneficiaries and can actually keep your will from being invalidated after your death.
If it’s been a while since you last updated your estate plan, register for an upcoming seminar for a "refresher" or give our office a call at 919-443-3035 to schedule a Vision Meeting.