Your estate plan is not set in stone. You can make alterations to the vast majority of estate planning documents up until the moment that you pass away, as long as you have the mental capacity to make those changes. As a result, it is wise for people to know that updates to an estate plan can help to ensure that one’s wishes are truly reflected in one’s plan.
Sometimes, a modification of existing documents is appropriate. Other times, replacing a document – like a will – makes more sense. With that said, any replacement will should include language revoking wills that came before it. This effort clearly establishes that the new will is the one that should be followed, which lowers the chances of an estate dispute between beneficiaries after you pass away.
When should you make these alterations?
Some people prefer to update their estate plans every few years. You, for example, may decide that you want to adjust the plan every three years, for instance, and then create a set schedule with your legal team accordingly. This way, you’ll always know that the estate plan cannot be any more than three years out of date.
But even making updates on a set schedule can be problematic if something major changes before you update your plan and then you pass away or suffer a form of incapacity. As a result of this risk, it can be helpful to make updates after major life events, such as:
- Selling a business
- Getting married or remarried
- Getting divorced
- Having a child
- The birth of a grandchild
- Inheriting assets
- Selling a family home
- Changes to the law
In other words, any time something substantial happens that necessitates a change to your estate plan, you can (and probably should) make that change immediately. Some people use a blend of both tactics, wherein they make updates on a set schedule unless something happens that warrants making an additional update. This hybrid approach tends to be the most effective option, as it allows for immediate adjustments and relatively regular “broad lens” review.
No matter what you choose to do, be sure that you are well aware of all the legal steps you’ll need to take so that you can leave an appropriate estate plan in place. Far too many adults neglect this process even though the idea of the state dictating what will happen with their assets after death is an idea that is abhorrent to them.