7 Signs that It’s Time to Update Your Estate Plan

So, you and your Santa Clara estate planning lawyer have put together a great plan for you.  Congratulations!  You are ahead of the majority of the population already.  Keep in mind, however, that even though the hard part is done, there is some maintenance that you and your attorney will want to do from time to time.  Your life and circumstances will likely change over the years, and you’ll want your estate plan to change accordingly.

Some of the changes that should precipitate a call to your California estate planning lawyer are fairly obvious, but they can still be overlooked.  After all, who has a baby and then thinks, “I should call my lawyer” in their sleep-deprived state?  For that reason, it’s a good idea to do the occasional mental inventory to see if you’ve undergone any of these life changes since you last updated your estate plan:

  1. You got married.  While a spouse does often inherit by default, there are a lot of other considerations to make.  As a bonus, your California estate planning lawyer will likely have great suggestions on how to adjust your plan in order to save your spouse on taxes and other time and money concerns when dealing with your estate.
  2. You got divorced.  If you don’t want your ex-spouse to receive your property upon your death, it’s worth your while to get together with your estate planning lawyer to make sure the ex’s name is removed as a beneficiary of accounts and policies, taken out of the will, removed from trusts, etc.
  3. You’ve been widowed.  When one spouse passes away, the other will need to update his or her estate plan to reflect that change.  Not only will your beneficiaries likely change, but you may also have an inheritance from your spouse that now needs to be incorporated into your own estate plan.
  4. You had a child or grandchild.  The birth or adoption of a new family member means that aspects of your estate plan may need to be changed to accommodate new needs.  For example, you may want to create a college fund or set up a trust.  Also, it’s very important to have your California estate planning lawyer draw up legal guardianship papers to determine who will care for your child should you be unable to do so yourself.
  5. Your financial situation has changed.  Whether you’ve received some sort of windfall, gotten a significant increase in pay, or have lost your job, it is important to review your estate plan to determine if it provides for these changes.  If not, you’ll need your lawyer to adjust it appropriately.
  6. You’ve purchased real estate.  A home often represents an individual’s biggest life investment, and you want to be sure to cover it in your estate plan.  From how to pay it off to whom you want to leave it to and plenty in between, an estate planning lawyer will help incorporate this big change into your existing plan.
  7. You started (or ended) a business.  Starting or ending a business warrants a trip to the estate planning lawyer’s office for plenty of reasons, not the least of which is that it will certainly have some sort of effect on your financial situation.  Succession planning is another big aspect of running a business, as you’ll want to clearly outline what is to happen to the biz if you die or become otherwise incapacitated.  A little legal work now will save big headaches later.

There are, of course, other events that should likely trigger a call or visit to your California estate planning lawyer, but these seven are some of the biggest.  Fortunately, with the major estate planning done, these types of updates will typically be fairly easy while benefitting you and your heirs greatly.

6 Responses to “7 Signs that It’s Time to Update Your Estate Plan”

  1. That’s interesting to know that divorce can impact estate planning. A friend of mine recently got divorced, but he really did not know that his estate could be messed up if he did not do anything to update it. I’ll have to recommend he talk to a probate lawyer and get everything all straitened out before anything happens. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Braden Bills says:

    I’ve been wondering if it’s time for me to update my estate. I didn’t even think about the fact that I recently got married! I’ll make sure I update my estate so that she will get some. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I didn’t realize that there were benefits to updating an estate plan to include your spouse. I figured that since my wife would get everything anyway, I wouldn’t have to change it. I definitely want to make things easier on her in that event, so I’ll have to look into getting my plan changed up.

  4. Maggie Allen says:

    My husband and I both got new jobs recently, so I think that we may need to take a look at our estate plan under your fifth sign. However, we also live in a new area, so we’ll have to find a new estate planning attorney to help us out. I’ll make sure to talk to my husband about this, and see if we can find someone soon.

  5. Erika Brady says:

    I recently got married about 5 months ago and so I am needing to update my estate plan it looks like. How do I know exactly what my husband will inherit by default? Will my estate planning lawyer be able to tell me that? There is so much to figure out when you are putting two lives together!

  6. I really liked what you said about how if your financial situation has changed, it is probably time to talk with an estate planning lawyer to adjust your plan. I’ve heard in the past that estate planning lawyers could be really helpful, and were often necessary to make sure your will is ready to go. It would definitely make sense to want to have it up to date if you had a significant change in financial standing, as that could effect how you would want money to be distributed.

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