When you create your estate plan, please do not put it on the proverbial shelf and forget about it. Estate planning does take a bunch of effort up front, but it also requires continued effort after the fact. The estate plans that bring forth the results that meet the goals of the people who created them are the estate plans that receive periodic attention and updates as needed. As with anything you must update as needed, keeping your estate plan aligned with your estate planning goals requires knowledge of the circumstances that create a need for changes.
Some of the things that trigger a need to update or change an estate planning document are subtle and sneaky. Today, I would like to let you know about two scenarios that create a need for revision or updating of your estate plan so that they don’t catch you unaware either now or in the future.
If you have financial assets like retirement plans in your estate plan and you have designated beneficiaries for those assets, that is a good thing. However, it is wise to maintain an awareness of the status of those assets and whether those beneficiary designations that you made initially are still valid and perhaps even more importantly still aligned with your estate planning goals. You are likely aware that you must redo your beneficiary designations if one or more of your beneficiaries are minors, or if you divorce if your spouse dies, or you remarry. Something you may not realize is that you may want to change your beneficiary designations if one or more of your listed beneficiaries divorce, die, remarry, or attain the age of majority or a way of life that demonstrates competence in handling their financial affairs. Allowing those changes in the lives of your beneficiaries to slip by unnoticed can lead to unintended and often unwanted consequences when those assets are distributed after you pass away.
Making or updating an estate plan without knowledge of the relevant income tax law provisions and estate tax laws can lead to estate planning messes that you never intended to create. Often, people who try to create estate plans without the aid of an attorney fall into this estate planning trap. However, as you work with your attorney to create your estate plan, be sure that you understand the tax implications for yourself and your family of the actions that you take as you make the estate plan or adjust it later on. Seeking that information may seem like a chore, but it is much easier than cleaning up the financial messes that could happen or leaving financial disasters for your family to wrestle with as they mourn your loss.
Whether you are ready to begin creating an estate plan or you need to update a plan that you have already made, Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber is here to serve you. Please call our office at 316-265-7802, or contact us on the internet to schedule a consultation to discuss all of your Kansas estate planning questions.