When you are preparing your estate plan, it seems like a lot of work. As you gather all of your information together and get it into your documents, it can feel a bit like you are doing a title search when you are buying real estate. Note: not everyone's estate plan takes this much work, but many people do spend a significant amount of time thinking and researching before they sign their documents. Once you've got your documents signed, it feels like a great weight is lifted off your shoulders. It's one (very large) thing that you don't have to worry about anymore. But, a common question then is, what's next? Is my estate plan ever truly done?
When Should I Review My Estate Plan
If you do research online, you'll find lots of different opinions on when you should review your estate plan. The two major schools of thought are,
- When there's a major life change
- Every 2 - 3 years
The first category is when people definitely need to review their estate plan. If you've gotten married, divorced, had a child, had a close family member die, or some other major family event, then it's the right time to have your documents reviewed. Especially if the event adds someone to your family who should be in your plan documents or removes someone who is already in them, you want to make sure that your new situation is properly reflected in the documents. You may not even need to have all of your documents re-drafted, you may only need to do an amendment to what you have (a much simpler process).
The second category is more a "rule of thumb" that attorneys and financial advisors use. If you have children, every 2 - 3 years, they are probably changing schools. With each change, they are getting closer to high school or college or graduate school and you may want to make sure that you're planning for those next stages. Or, if you have grandkids, you may want to change your estate plan to add more planning for them for the future as well.
What Should I Have Reviewed?
When you are having your planning documents reviewed, you should make sure to review them all. Healthcare documents have become especially important recently and you'll want to make sure that you have the right people in the correct roles in case you get sick. If you have a power of attorney, some states have recently revised their power of attorney forms and you may want to see if the new form is more appropriate for your goals. And of course, you want to make sure your will or trust is still properly laying out your plans for your estate.
What Can I Do In the Meantime?
If you've recently had your planning documents prepared or reviewed, you may be wondering what you can do in the meantime. Some common things you can do in the meantime are,
- Check the beneficiary designations on your accounts
- Check your life insurance policy
- Review your other insurance policies
- Talk to your financial advisor
These aren't items that you need to do on a weekly basis, but it's probably a good idea at least once a year to go through this list and make sure you've got everything laid out the way you intend.
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If it's been some time since you drafted your estate plan, or if it's time you get one drafted to protect your legacy, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to review the best options for you.