Don’t Put Off Updating Your Estate Plan Documents
We’ve said it before. We’ll say it again. And again.
When people put off updating estate plans, they’re playing a very dangerous game. This sort of procrastination is downright irresponsible and often results in people’s loved ones facing additional stress, financial loss, and hurt feelings.
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted several examples of cases where the originator of a will or trust waited too long to update documents, and the results for surviving family members were costly and emotionally burdensome.
Life Always Brings Change
People should have their documents reviewed by an experienced estate planning attorney whenever there are any major life changes in their circumstances. Those can include a relocation, a marriage, a divorce, property transfers, starting or selling a business, a decline in a loved one’s health, the death of a spouse, and the addition of new children or other potential heirs.
We can’t emphasize this enough: When there is a significant life change, people should have their documents reviewed and likely updated.
Start with the Will and Revocable Living Trust
A will and revocable living trust are both living documents that need to be reviewed regularly. Anytime a person experiences a major life change, these documents should be reviewed as soon as possible and possibly updated to reflect that change.
Review Retirement Plans
A retirement plan beneficiary designation is one of the most often overlooked parts of anyone’s planning. Unlike other assets, retirement plans are not disbursed by a will or a trust. Instead, they are released based on the beneficiary forms on file with a person’s financial institution.
Too often, people neglect to update these beneficiary designations when their originally identified beneficiary (usually a spouse) dies or they divorce.
Long Term Care
Many people willfully ignore their advancing age and the possibility that one day they may be unable to care for themselves physically. They don’t like to think about paying for medical care.
A single room in a private nursing facility can cost thousands of dollars per month and can quickly wipe out a life savings. People who lack a strategy to protect their assets and families from the costs of long term care, are risking their quality of life in their most vulnerable years.
The WSJ points out another reason why people should consider updating estate plans – the possibility that they could outlive their children.
It’s an unexpected tragedy most people don’t consider when creating their plans. But if the child dies first, what financial or legal consequences might result if the person never updated his or her estate plan?
An Annual Discussion
As an advisor, we recommend that you should hold annual conversations with loved ones about unexpected life changes and how they affect planning and financial decisions. If we can ever help you with holding those discussions, please contact our office.
We hope this information is useful to you and helps your loved ones and their families. If you have a specific case or a question, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (800) 835-2634. You can also find more helpful information on our Facebook page and by following us on Twitter.