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When Should I Update My Estate Plan?

Posted on June 21, 2024

Having an estate plan can give you significant peace of mind regarding the future of your assets, property and estate. If your estate plan is out of date and does not accurately reflect your current situation, goals or state laws, however, this could be detrimental to your carefully laid plans. It is critical to update your estate plan regularly to ensure that your wishes are properly carried out.

Marital Status Updates

Any event that alters your list of beneficiaries should result in a subsequent update to your estate plan. This includes any change to your marital status. If you get married, divorced or legally separated, you should update your estate plan to either include your new spouse or exclude an ex-spouse. If you remove an ex-spouse, you will need to update your beneficiary designations on documents such as retirement accounts and life insurance plans.

Changes Involving Children

Children are another important life update that requires changes to an existing estate plan. The birth or adoption of a new child into the family, or a new marriage involving stepchildren, deserves a resulting estate plan update to include the child in your plans for the future.

You may wish to bequeath certain assets to your new child, for example, or set up new trusts to manage the child’s inheritance. Your estate planning documents can also name legal guardians for your minor children in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated.

Other Changes to Family or Beneficiary Dynamics

If you experience any other change that alters your relationship with your heirs, beneficiaries, trustees, guardians or powers of attorney, you should update your estate plan to reflect the new situation. If you have a falling out and wish to disinherit someone, for example, you must update your estate plan to recognize this estrangement. If someone named in your estate plan dies, your documents must also be updated.

Significant Asset Alterations

If your assets undergo a significant change, so should your estate plan. If you start a new business, for example, or purchase a property, update your legal documents to include your latest acquisitions. Your documents must reflect the current state and value of your estate to properly fulfill your wishes and protect your beneficiaries. Any assets that are not included in your estate plan at the time of your passing will be subject to probate.

Periodic Reviews Are Recommended

While you should always update your estate plan after significant events that alter your estate or beneficiary designations, it is also important to schedule periodic reviews of your documents with your St. Louis estate planning lawyer every three to five years, even if nothing major has changed, to be sure that everything is up to date.

Your attorney can review your current situation and recommend any necessary changes. Your lawyer will update your will, trusts, powers of attorney and other documents to reflect new tax laws, for example, or address changes in your life that you may not have realized will affect your estate. Regular reviews with a lawyer can ensure that your estate plan is valid, current and in the best possible position to fulfill your wishes later in life.