When Estate Planning Is the Last Thing on Your Mind

When you are going through a major life event in your family — the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce, remarriage, moving, buying or selling property, inheriting or losing a large amount of money, serious illness or injury, the death of a loved one — you are not likely to be thinking about your estate plan. During such times, emotions run high and priorities are in the immediate present, not the future. Nonetheless, the life-altering events mentioned all necessitate reviewing your relevant documents with an accomplished estate planning attorney. Any insightful estate planning attorney is well aware of the need to regularly review and update your estate plan. No matter how well-crafted and legally refined it is, changes in family status and health will necessitate changes in your legal documents.

Changes in the Family Constellation

When you family is being blessed with a new member, whether by birth, adoption, or marriage, you are most likely focused on cribs and baby clothes, bonding with the newcomer, or planning a wedding. You may be much too busy to consider the changes you have to make to your will, in terms of beneficiary designations and guardianship assignments, and possibly to existing trusts. You also may want to create a new trust as you re-evaluate your family obligations. In addition to changes in wills and trusts, issues like joint ownerships, annuities, IRAs, 401(k)s, and insurance policy beneficiaries may have to be updated.

On the other hand, if a divorce or death has taken place in your family, you will have other, more poignant reasons for reconfiguring your estate plan. Also, if you or a loved has become seriously ill or incapacitated, you will want to make sure that all the necessary papers have been drafted and signed: durable and healthcare powers of attorney, living will (advanced healthcare directive), and HIPAA release form.

Changes in Accumulated Assets or Location

Moving, when it involves changes in state taxation and other state regulations concerning estate planning documents, also necessitates revisions. Whether you are relocating or not, buying or selling substantial assets, like a house or a sizable piece of property, will require revisiting your accumulated assets, as will getting a large inheritance, winning the lottery, or losing money in the stock market. It is imperative that you review your inventory of assets with a qualified estate planning attorney on a regular basis, because such changes may alter not only asset protection needs but taxation responsibilities.

Taking Prompt Action Will Save You Money and Protect You From Stress

You should always keep your overall financial arrangements in mind as your life changes. No one expects you to call your estate planning attorney on the day the new baby arrives or you decide to relocate to a warmer climate or a beloved family member is diagnosed with dementia, but don’t wait too long. Take steps now to ensure that your family and your assets are protected and that all needed documents are in known locations in case of an emergency. It’s amazing how quickly your priorities can change. If you keep your estate in shape as your life progresses, your money will be available when needed and your family will be safe.