Probate can be public, time consuming, and expensive. But, it can also be easily avoided when the proper steps are taken.
When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan? If you haven’t reviewed your plan since the day you originally signed documents at your attorney’s office, you’re not alone. The vast majority of people simply don’t think about creating an estate plan and, of those who do, few seldom make a point to regularly revisit their plan to ensure it still meets their needs.
Generally, an estate plan should be reviewed after any major life event, such as birth, marriage, divorce, or death. However, I generally advise that, at a minimum,
clients revisit their plans every three to five years to ensure the plan still meets their objectives and priorities. In light of the recent tax reform, it is even more likely that your estate plan needs an update to accurately reflect your goals and wishes.
When should you review an existing plan?
In addition to regularly scheduled reviews, it’s a good idea to reexamine and update your estate plan if any of the following circumstances have changed since you last reviewed your plan:
- your Personal, Financial, or Charitable objectives
- your Family dynamic, for example: birth or adoption of a child or grandchild, minors becoming adults, changes in marital status, or death of a beneficiary.
- Death or change in circumstances of executors or guardians for minor children.
- Health and life expectancy of you or a close family member including: illness or disability of a spouse or child, change in number of dependents, or changes to life insurance policies such that coverage is no longer sufficient for family protection and estate liquidity needs.
- Financial needs during your lifetime. This could include changes in life or long-term care insurance policies such that coverage and benefits are no longer sufficient to protect you, your family, and your assets. This could also include untimely closing of a business or early retirement.
- Relocation to another state or accumulation of property in another state.
- Current and/or projected value of your estate. Meaning substantive changes to wealth, income, investments, or business interests, significant increase in borrowing or other financial liabilities, changes in the types of property owned or type of ownership.
- Marginal income tax bracket.
- and; Changes to federal or state tax laws.
If you’ve recently experienced a change in any of these areas, it is time to review your estate plan. A good estate plan should reflect your current financial situation and plan for your future needs while remaining flexible enough to accommodate future changes in your personal circumstances as well as future changes to tax laws and policies. Many estate plans no longer meet their original objectives because of changes to family, financial circumstances, or the tax code; thus, regular review of your estate plan is key to successful planning.
Estate planning is complicated, if you have questions or suspect your estate plan needs review, follow up with your wealth advisory team to ensure your estate plan is up to date and reasonably meets your estate planning objectives and priorities.