Changes in any of the conditions in effect when you first drafted your will should cause you to reexamine your plans in light of new circumstances. We all need to be alert to events that signal a review of our estate plans. Here are some of the most important of those events:
1. Additions to the Family
New dependents mean new responsibilities, added costs, and additional opportunities. Are your financial and estate plans flexible enough to meet the new challenges?
Additions to the family also mean added responsibilities for those you may have named as guardians for your dependents. It’s important to review periodically not only your own situation but also the circumstances of family and friends who are affected by your estate plans.
2. Change in Marital Status
Perhaps you are recently married, widowed, or divorced. What provisions might have to be made for your new spouse? Does your new spouse have children with special needs?
If you are recently widowed, are there decisions to be made about the assets you’ve received from your spouse’s estate? The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. While it may be difficult to look to the future, it’s essential to review the plans you made together.
3. Changes in Assets
Most likely, over time, your assets have increased in number and in value. When you first drafted your will, federal estate taxes may not have been a major concern. But as your estate increases in value, these taxes could alter your plans—and your ability to distribute your assets as planned.
If you have increased your insurance coverage over time, you may want to adjust the distribution plans specified in your will.
If you own a business, how has time affected the value of your business? Do your plans still provide for an orderly transfer of your interests to those individuals you wish to carry on the business?
4. Travel Plans
Something as simple and routine as your annual vacation might serve as a reason to look at your estate plans. Whether you’re traveling across the state or around the world, consider a review of your will as part of your vacation planning.
5. Moving to Another State
Probate and trust laws are determined by the state you live in, and your current will may require some modification to conform with another state’s laws. It’s important to have an experienced professional in your new state of residence look over your will and trust documents to make sure your wishes will be carried out without unnecessary complications or delays.
6. Health Conditions
In homes and state legislatures across the country, the subject of living wills is being discussed and debated at length. At what point should the struggle to preserve a life be halted? Who should decide when that point has been reached? Will a prolonged struggle to continue life jeopardize your plans for the security of your family?
These are questions to address as you review your will and estate plans. A living will may be appropriate, and you may want to decide now who will manage your affairs in the event incapacitating injury or illness does strike.
7. Executor and Trustees
The duties and responsibilities of executors and trustees are considerable. Perhaps you named a family member as executor when you first drafted your will. Is that individual still able to negotiate the complexities of the probate process? If you have moved, will he or she be able to serve under the laws of your new state?
Choosing the right individual or corporate fiduciary to carry out your wishes is every bit as important as spelling out those wishes in your will or trust document.