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Is the time right to review your estate plan?

Published On: Dec 03 2013 11:55:42 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 03 2013 12:45:08 PM CST

By attorney Keith Morris, Special to THELAW.TV

Estate planning is an essential step for all adults to take. However, completing your estate plan is not necessarily a one-time process. Occasionally, your plan should be re-evaluated to make sure that it is current, reflecting any new assets, and any changes in how you want them to be handled after your death.

When should an estate plan be reviewed? There's no absolute answer to this question, but estate planning attorneys recommend reviewing your plan every few years or when there are big changes in your life.

If you've received a large amount of money, for example, or had major changes in a business you own, you would certainly want to review your estate plan to reflect this change in your assets. Similarly, if you've experienced a financial downturn, a common occurrence in the current economy, you'll need to make changes in your will to reflect the reduction in assets.

Other big life changes, such as a change in marital status, would also necessitate changes to your estate plan. When you get married, you'll likely want to change your estate plan to include your spouse as a beneficiary of your estate. On the other hand, if you get divorced, you'll likely want to remove your spouse as beneficiary or agent in your estate planning documents.

A growing family is one of the most common reasons for editing an estate plan. If you have a child, your estate plan should include the naming of a guardian for your child should anything happen to you, as well as naming your child as a beneficiary. When you have additional children, you'll want to adjust your plan to include them as well.

Even if you had no major life changes, you should still review your estate plan every few years. Perhaps you've lost touch with the person who is named as your agent in a power of attorney document. If a beneficiary of your estate has died, you'll need to adjust your will accordingly. Sometimes a person who is named as an executor, trustee, or guardian in your estate plan will no longer wish to fulfill this role, so you'll need to adjust your documents to change this.

A final reason to periodically review your estate plan every few years is to make sure it reflects the most current laws. Not every state has the same probate and tax laws, and these laws are always subject to change in our lifetimes. If you move to a new state, or the laws related to estate planning and probate change in your current state, you'll want to review your legal documents with an estate planning attorney to make sure it falls in line with current legislation.

The author, Keith Morris, is a Houston, Texas estate planning attorney.

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