It is very important to periodically get out your estate planning documents and review them. You can pick a date that will be easy to remember such as your birthday, the beginning of the year, or a particular holiday, and do it every year. Everyone has changing circumstances in their lives, so for your planning to most benefit you and your loved ones when the time comes, keeping your estate planning documents up-to-date is important.
Very common issues that lead to the need to review estate planning documents are the birth or passing of family members, a need to change your fiduciaries (Executor, Attorney-In-Fact, Medical Agent, Trustee) due to the named agent’s passing, incapacity, or personal situation that prevents them from serving such as an illness in their own family or a relocation to another state, change in marital status, etc.
When drafting documents, it is important to name successor agents, so that during your incapacity such changes will already be addressed, but if you have capacity and are aware of the unavailability of your first named agent it will serve you and your family best to update your documents to have a valid first and second, and possibly even third choice, particularly in the case of an expected long term incapacity or a long term trust.
Likewise, if you have minor children and you have named a guardian for them in your Will, it is very important to review often to make sure the family you have named is still the best situation for your children, considering the demands on that family, any special needs of you children, relationships and school districts, etc.
Also, when initially doing your estate planning, hopefully, you coordinated all beneficiary designations with your Will or Trust terms. Oftentimes people change jobs, or their bank merges with another, etc. and life insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations need to be made. It is important to review your documents and maintain consistency. For example, if your Will directs your assets to a revocable trust you don’t want to negate that credit shelter planning by having the new beneficiary designation go directly to your spouse.
There are a multitude of situations that could create the need for review, including anytime real property is purchased. This is particularly true of property purchased in another jurisdiction or investment property. In those cases, you may wish to review your ability to avoid probate. Each and every property you own outright is subject to probate in its local jurisdiction at the time of your death, but there are methods of avoiding probate in multiple jurisdictions such as having an entity (i.e. trust or LLC) own the property, or if a joint owner with rights of survivorship (i.e. your spouse) survives you.
Another issue to consider is whether your spouse or child (or other beneficiary) has developed a special need, which could be medical, emotional or financial concerns who would benefit from leaving them assets in trust rather than outright. Trusts can be included in the terms of your Will or be written within a separate trust document that will remain private at your death, and with the help of your attorney can be drafted to meet whatever needs your particular situation requires.
Finally, the law often changes, and this can drastically affect estate planning. Our firm holds an annual estate planning seminar, which is complimentary, in order to alert our clients to any changes in the law that may affect them. If it has been many years since you reviewed your documents, it is wise to make an appointment with your attorney to discuss any changes that might need attention. We recommend never going more than five years without reviewing your documents with your attorney, preferably review would take place every three years.