It can be a common misconception that once you have completed your estate plan you are all set and do not have to worry about it going forward. While it is an incredible accomplishment to have completed your estate plan– you’ve ensured that you have a plan set in place to protect yourself and your estate– you do not want to leave it and forget about it. Throughout your life, it’s likely that big life changes will occur every few years– things like getting married, having a child, buying a house. When these types of situations occur, you will want to be prepared to adapt your estate plan to align with your new circumstances.
At Trust & Will, the leader in online estate planning services, we understand the significance of keeping an up-to-date estate plan that accommodates your needs. However, how do you know what sort of events may require you to make changes to your estate plan? Not only that, but how do you go about making those changes to your estate plan? In this article, we are going to cover these questions and more to ensure that you are prepared for any situation that may arise in the future.
Keep reading to learn the answers to the following questions regarding your estate plan and when it may need a facelift:
What documents may require changes within your estate plan?
The short answer is that any of your documents within your estate plan may require updating at some point in your lifetime due to life-changing events and circumstances that may occur, such as divorce, death of a spouse or beneficiary, or perhaps you want to choose someone else to be your Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. Anything from your Will, to your Trust, Financial Power of Attorney documents, Health Care Proxy documents, and Nomination of Guardianship documents may all require updates to reflect your current needs and preferences.
For a full breakdown of the estate planning documents needed in your plan, check out our comprehensive guide.
What are some events that may require changes to your estate plan?
Keep reading to learn some of the most common events that may occur in your lifetime that could cause the need for estate planning changes. However, it is important to note that this is not a comprehensive list and is only a few examples of the many situations that may occur.
If you created an estate plan for yourself, but later in life end up going through the joyous occasion of getting married, you will want to sit down and evaluate your estate plan to account for your new partner and your joint assets. It is possible you may even want to consider a joint Trust or joint Will for the two of you instead of having separate estate plans.
Additionally, you may also want to update your Financial Power of Attorney documents and Health Care Proxy documents to instead list your spouse as your Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy.
If you are part of half the population within the United States that will experience a divorce within their lifetime, it is likely you will also have significant changes that need to be made to your estate plan in order to accommodate your new circumstances. It is possible that you and your ex-husband or ex-wife had a joint Trust or a joint Will. If either of these cases is true, you will want to sit down and create new documents to account for your separation. This will also include going through your previously joint assets to determine what you remained in possession of and what you should include within your new Trust or Will.
Having a child
Often, after having a child is one of the main times people begin to reevaluate their estate plan and ensure they are accounting for their child within it. For example, you most likely will want to leave a substantial portion of your assets, if not all, to your children if you were to pass away. In order to do this, you will need to update your Will or Trust to list them as the beneficiary.
Additionally, if you have a minor child, you will want to create nomination of guardianship documents to ensure that a trusted individual will be made the guardian of your child in the unfortunate event that you can no longer complete your guardianship duties yourself, such as when you are in a coma, develop Alzheimer’s disease, or pass away unexpectedly.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you develop an unexpected terminal illness, it will be important to review your overall estate plan and ensure everything is still to your liking, including who your Beneficiaries are within your Trust and Will, as it is possible things may have changed since you last reviewed it.
Additionally, it is possible that at some point within your illness you may be deemed no longer fit to make medical or financial decisions for yourself. In this instance, your Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy will be called upon to make decisions for you in your absence. These will be crucial roles within this stage of your life, and you want to be sure that the people you have selected for these roles are the individuals you trust most with the roles.
While the above scenarios are great instances of when to update your estate plan, it’s never a bad time to start planning. There are other scenarios as well– to learn more about when is the best time to create or update your estate plan, be sure to check out our full guide.
How do you go about making these changes?
Deciding what changes need to be made within your estate plan can be a time-consuming enough process on its own, especially if you are going through a major life event such as a divorce that may disrupt every aspect of your estate plan. Adding on a confusing and difficult process to make the changes you need to can make the process seem that much more daunting.
That is why our team here at Trust & Will created an easy-to-navigate online estate planning website to simplify the process. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!
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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.