If you have taken the time and put in the effort to make an estate plan, you have made considerable progress towards ensuring that your health, wealth, and assets are managed according to your plans during your lifetime and after you pass away. For your carefully crafted estate plan to work correctly and accomplish your estate plan goals, you must plan for periodic maintenance of your estate plan. Fortunately, maintaining your estate plan is likely to take much less time and effort than creating the plan required.
Every person with an estate plan would benefit from reviewing their plan with their estate planning attorney every five to seven years, provided that they do not experience any significant life changes during the time between one review and another. Major life events like moving to a different state, the birth of a child, or divorce create a need to review and update an estate plan right away, instead of waiting until the next regularly scheduled review.
Now that you know that estate plans require periodic maintenance and when that maintenance needs to happen, you are likely wondering what kinds of things in your estate plan require revision and updating. One topic that your estate planning attorney will probably cover when you review your estate plan is whether the laws have changed in ways that could impact the way your estate plan is designed to function. During an estate plan review, you’ll also examine the choices that you made regarding others who will play roles in executing various parts of your estate plan, such as your executor and, if you have a trust, the trustee or trustees you appointed. It’s possible that one or more of those individuals have passed away, or that they can no longer serve in that capacity when the time comes. You might also realize that one or more of those people are not trustworthy, or that you’re not comfortable with them playing such a significant role in handling your affairs.
Beneficiaries are another area of an estate plan that require review and updating. IRAs, 401ks, life insurance policies, and any other assets in your estate plan that have beneficiary designations must be reviewed to ensure that those designations are accurate. When you pass away, each asset with a beneficiary designation will pass to the beneficiaries named in the designation regardless of your intent. For example, consider what would happen if you name your firstborn child as the beneficiary of your IRA. If you have two more children during your lifetime and you do not update your beneficiary designation to include them, the two children who are not named as beneficiaries do not inherit any of that IRA. Check each beneficiary designation to be sure that the named individual or individuals are the people whom you plan to transfer those assets to when you pass away. If you discover that one or more beneficiary designations are not accurate, work with your estate planning attorney to change them.
Wichita estate planning attorney J. Joseph Weber is here to assist you with making or updating your estate plan. Call us to make your appointment today at (316) 265-7802, or contact us online.