You might breathe a sigh of relief after you create your estate plan. After all, it’s not easy to think about your own mortality and how your loved ones might struggle without you around. But as life changes, so too, can your estate planning needs. That’s why it’s important to think of your estate plan as a living entity rather than something that can be shelved once it’s initially created.
The dangers of an untouched estate plan
Far too many Californians neglect their estate plans. By doing so they put their estate and their loved ones at risk. Life changes and changes to the estate without any additional legal action could mean that certain assets will pass down to individuals who were never intended to inherit in the first place, or that loved ones who were meant to inherit will be left with nothing. In yet other instances, life changes can leave an estate plan unclear, which can lead to family infighting and litigation that can be financially and emotionally costly. If you want to avoid all of these potential outcomes, then you should ensure that you’re periodically revisiting your estate plan and modifying it as needed.
When does your estate plan need to be modified?
There are a lot of changes that can occur in your life that will warrant an estate plan modification. Let’s look at a handful of them:
- Marriages and divorces: Whether your own or a named beneficiary’s, you should recognize that a marriage or divorce can have major implications for your estate plan. In short, unless you modify your estate plan, a new spouse may be left without access to your estate’s assets. On the other hand, a divorce without modification could leave your assets in the hands of someone you don’t trust.
- Births: The birth of a new child or grandchild is a great catalyst for revisiting your estate plan. If you want to make it clear that you want that child to inherit from you, then you need to specify so in your estate plan.
- Changed relationships: If you’ve had a falling out with a loved one, then you might want to revisit your estate plan to see if you want to disinherit that individual. If you do, then you need to make formal changes to your estate plan.
- Acquisition of new assets: Although many estate plans leave the entire estate or a bulk of it to certain individuals, you may end up acquiring assets that you want dealt with on an individual basis in your estate plan. However, that can only occur if you revise your estate plan to include that asset. Otherwise, that asset will be lumped in with the rest of your estate.
- Changed needs: If the needs and circumstances of your named beneficiaries has changed, then you might want to think about how you can address that in your estate plan.
- New restrictions: An estate plan can be a great way to motivate loved ones to act in a certain way, whether that’s to graduate college, get married, or enter a substance abuse treatment program. If you later identify a need for one of these motivating factors, then you might want to revisit your estate plan to make it clear what conditions have to be met before assets can be inherited.
Ensure that your estate plan suits your needs at all times
Competent estate planning really is an ongoing process. It’s important that you revisit your plan from time to time to ensure that your estate will be handled how you see fit when the time comes. We know that there are a lot of intricacies with the process, though, which is why skilled legal teams like ours stand ready to assist.