8 Changing Life Circumstances That Should Prompt You to Take Action and Review Your Will and Estate Plan

Posted June 2018

It’s just about summertime, the season that has the most changes in the family: June is the top month for weddings and summer is the top season for births. A change in your family means it is time to review your will and estate plan.

Changes in any of the conditions in effect when you first drafted your will should cause you to reexamine your plans in light of new circumstances. We all need to be alert to events that signal a review of our estate plans—making sure that those plans are still meeting our personal, financial, and charitable objectives. Here are some of the most important of those events:

  1. Additions to the Family
    New dependents mean new responsibilities, added costs, and additional opportunities. Are your financial and estate plans flexible enough to meet the new challenges? Additions to the family may also mean added responsibilities for those you have named as guardians if you have dependents. It’s important to review periodically not only your own situation but also the circumstances of family and friends who are affected by your estate plan.

  2. Change in Marital Status
    Perhaps you are recently married, widowed, or divorced. What provisions might have to be made for your new spouse? Does your new spouse have children with special needs? If you are recently widowed, are there decisions to be made about the assets you’ve received from your spouse’s estate? The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. While it may be difficult to look to the future, it’s essential to review the plans you made together—including your charitable beneficiaries.

  3. Changes in Assets
    Most likely, over time your assets have increased in number and in value. You may need to revisit your plan to distribute those assets. You may now be able to make the gift to support our work that you have been considering for a long time. If you have increased your insurance coverage over time, you may want to adjust the distribution plans specified in your will. If you own a business, how has time affected its value? Does your plan still provide for an orderly transfer of your interests to those individuals you have chosen to carry on the business?

  4. Travel Plans
    Something as simple and routine as your annual vacation might serve as a reason to look at your estate plan. Whether you’re traveling across the state or around the world, consider a review of your will as part of your vacation planning.

  5. Moving to Another State
    Probate and trust laws are determined by the state you live in, and your current will may require some modification to conform with another state’s laws. It’s important to have an experienced professional in your new state of residence look over your will and any trust documents to make sure your wishes will be carried out without unnecessary complications or delays.

  6. Health Conditions
    In homes and state legislatures across the country, the subject of the living will is being discussed and debated at length. At what point should the struggle to preserve a life be halted? Who should decide when that point has been reached? Would a prolonged struggle to continue your life jeopardize your plans for the security of your family? These are questions to address as you review your will and estate plan. A living will may be appropriate, and you may want to decide now who will manage your affairs in the event incapacitating injury or illness does strike.

  7. Executor and Trustees
    The duties and responsibilities of executors and trustees are considerable. Perhaps you named a family member as executor when you first drafted your will. Is that individual still able to negotiate the complexities of the probate process? If you have moved, will he or she be able to serve under the laws of your new state? Choosing the right individual or corporate fiduciary to carry out your wishes is every bit as important as spelling out those wishes in your will or trust document.

  8. Changes in Tax Laws
    Tax law changes are regularly considered by Congress—and last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made significant changes, including doubling the estate- and gift-tax exemption. Your will may need to be revised to take best advantage of the new regulations. For some Americans, the increase in the estate-tax exemption means they will have more to give to loved ones and to charity.

As you consider all these reasons for making updates, please contact us to see how we can assist in your estate and gift planning.

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