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What to do When You Become an Empty Nester? Review Your Estate Plan

If you are a parent, reaching the "empty nester" stage of life is quite a change! Here's why you should review your estate plan when you arrive.

Are you in the process of sending your kids off to college, or helping your youngest find their first apartment away from home? Empty nesters typically feel a mixed bag of emotions, one of them being a sense of uncertainty of what comes next. 

As you enter this new stage in life, we urge you to review and reevaluate your estate plan. This might be the last thing that would have occurred to you, in which case, we’re glad that you stumbled upon this guide. Keep reading to find out why reviewing your estate plan is such an important step for new empty nesters, as well as which new factors are up for evaluation.

What Are Empty Nesters? 

If you are a parent and your children have grown up and moved out, you are an empty nester. Empty nesters often experience something called “empty nest syndrome,” which include feelings of sadness and loneliness. This is natural and very common; having your beloved children leave your home after many years of living together is a major transition.

Parents often become empty nesters when the last (often the youngest) of their children go off to college, or when they turn 18 and decide to move into their own apartment. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be an empty nester forever. There are times in which one or more of your children may return to live with you for a period of time. Regardless, it is not the same experience as having young children at home, because there is an underlying expectation that your adult children will eventually establish their own households. 

This is a major transition in life. After spending years caring for your own children, your set of responsibilities suddenly changed. This may leave you at a bit of a loss on what to do when you become an empty nester. 

What to Do When You Become an Empty Nester

When you first become an empty nester, you might have trouble settling in one one feeling. Sadness and loneliness might be counterbalanced with feelings of pride. Some parents would never admit this, but they might even feel a sense of relief and excitement. After all, you’ve spent decades prioritizing your children first and now you suddenly have the freedom to focus on you. 

But what will you do with this newfound freedom? Here are some recommendations on how to beat empty nest syndrome and take advantage of your new stage in life. Whatever you do, don’t forget to review your estate plan.

1. Reconnect with Friends & Establish New Communication Norms

It’s hard to keep in constant contact with your friends when you’re so busy with family. Not that you don’t have to run a full house, take your newfound time to reconnect with your friends. They are likely in similar situations, and would be happy to increase communication. 

By hosting dinner parties or learning a new skill, you might even find yourself making a new set of friends who are also empty nesters!

2. Pick Up Old Hobbies or Interests

Do you have hobbies and interests that you haven’t touched in years? This is the perfect time to pick them up again. Whether it be cooking or camping, capitalize on your newfound freedom by revisiting some of the more time-intensive hobbies that you have. (New hobbies are welcome too!)

You’ll quickly begin to appreciate having the luxury of time to reconnect with yourself and your personal interests. The Active Times provides 30 more ideas on what to do when you become an empty nester.

3. Review Your Estate Plan

When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan? 

If you’ve been super busy as a parent, you likely haven’t had much time to sit down and go through your estate plan in years. Any major life change serves as a great trigger to re-evaluate your estate plan to make sure it’s still accurate and effective. 

Next, we’ll talk about the specifics of why empty nesters need to review their estate plans, and some common things to look out for.

Why Review Your Estate Plan When You Become an Empty Nester? 

If you first created a Will when your children were small, you might be surprised at how outdated it is today. First and foremost, you likely designated a guardian who would become responsible for their care and finances in the case that both parents died. These are safety nets that you established for your children who were minors at the time may no longer be appropriate or necessary.

Ask yourself, “how do I feel if my child(ren) inherited my entire life savings tomorrow?” Although your children are no longer minors, the idea of them receiving your entire nest egg at such a young age might send a shudder down your spine. 

Now that you’ve entered a new stage in life, your asset structure may also change. Perhaps you’re considering selling your current home to move into a smaller home for retirement. Regardless of what your unique circumstances might be, odds are there will be at least one aspect of your estate plan that requires reevaluation. We provide some common examples next.

What to Review in Your Estate Plan When You Become an Empty Nester

Now that you’re an empty nester, you’ll want to make time to review your estate plan. We recommend going through all of your documents and tools and assessing whether each aspect of your estate plan is still valid, accurate, and effective. Chances are, you’ll need to update one or more items.

Here are some common aspects empty nesters should review in their estate plans:

  • Powers of Attorney

One of the main aspects of estate planning is naming someone (your Power of Attorney) who will take care of your affairs if you were to pass away or become incapacitated. Of your children who are now adults, would you like for one of them to serve as your POA instead? Would you like to retain the same individual?  Now is the perfect time to evaluate your POA.

  • Inheritances and Trusts

Earlier, we asked how you would feel if your children inherited your life savings at once. You may have set up a special Trust for your minor children, and now that they are somewhat self-sufficient, you may need to re-evaluate how you would like to pass on your inheritance to them. A revocable living Trust is a great option that will allow you to control your assets while you’re alive and continue making revisions as necessary.

  • Life Insurance and Retirement

Now is a good time to reevaluate your life insurance and retirement accounts. Perhaps you’ll want to update your life insurance policy, and you’ll certainly want to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your assets are passed along to the appropriate beneficiaries when you pass away.

  • Health Care Directives

No one wants to think about the aging process, and the possibility of developing a cognitive disability or terminal illness. However, becoming an empty nester means that aging is a reality, and it’s important to think about how you would like to be cared for when it comes to medical circumstances. Now is the perfect time to review your health care directives, and consider if one of your adult children should play a larger role.

Review Your Estate Plan Today!

The key takeaway for empty nesters is that this is a perfect time to review and update your estate plans. Any major family milestone should serve as a trigger to review your estate planning tools, because there is almost always something that needs to be changed. In some cases, you’ll find yourself wanting to scrap your existing plan entirely and create a new one.

Going with an online estate planning service like the one offered by Trust & Will can make your life much easier. We make it easy to establish, review, and update your estate plan through every season of your life. You’ll also feel supported and guided every step of the way!

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!