It is important not only to have estate planning documents in place, but also to keep these documents up-to-date as your life changes. The rule of thumb is to review these documents every five years to see if any revisions need to be made. If changes have occurred in your life since documents were last updated, it may be necessary to revise your estate planning documents. Here are some of the life changes that may prompt the need to update your documents:
1) Marriage. If estate planning documents were last revised before you got married, you’ll want to update them to include provisions for your spouse. Often, people wish to name their spouse as Executor under their Will or as primary Agent in Power of Attorney documents. You’ll also want to make sure that your spouse will receive assets under your Will.
2) Children. You’ll want to be sure to update estate planning documents when children are born, including planning for minor children (such as adding testamentary trust language and choosing guardians for them). You’ll likely want to update your estate planning documents again once your children reach a certain age as well as when they legally become adults.
3) Moving. Although you don’t always need to update documents when you move, you’ll definitely want to revisit them if you are moving to a different state or country and be sure they will be recognized and valid in your new place of residence. Also, if your Will includes a specific property that is sold or transferred, you’ll need to update your Will to reflect this change.
4) Job or career change. Again, your estate planning documents might not need revisions when you start a new job or career, but you’ll want to make sure beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance policies are up-to-date and that these beneficiary designations remain consistent with any provisions in your Will.
5) Divorce. Individuals should revise their own estate planning documents following divorce and update spousal provisions, especially if the former spouse was named as an Agent under a Financial Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy document.
6) Death or health concern for a family member. When a family member or loved one passes away who had been named in an estate planning document (as an heir, Executor in a Will, Agent under a Power of Attorney document, etc.) these documents will need to be reviewed to make sure there is a successor or contingency. Also, if someone named in estate planning documents to serve as Executor or an Agent now has health concerns that may make them unable to serve in that role, you’ll want to determine if an update to that document is necessary.
7) Long-term care concerns. If long-term care concerns are on the horizon for you, you may want to change some of the planning techniques that had previously been used. Asset protection and preservation for future generations often become the focus during this time. You may also want to update Powers of Attorney to ensure they align with your wishes in the context of long-term care planning.
The life changes above are important times to reevaluate your planning needs, but there are a lot of other scenarios and life events that also call for revisions to your estate plan. If you are unsure if you need to make changes based on your current situation, reach out to your estate planning attorney and they can help you figure out if your documents need to be revisited.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.