|Photo by Ed g2s|
Review your estate plan after every major life change, such as a birth, death, or disability in the family, purchase of a home, out-of-state move, or changes to investment accounts. Unfortunately, many busy parents put their estate plan in the family safe, intending to update it periodically, but never do. The thought process goes, “Even if our estate plan isn’t up to date, at least we have one.” However, imagine dying with a 10 year-old will, and having your children turned over to guardians who seemed like a good choice 10 years ago, but are no longer in good health. Or, imagine having a special needs child who is not appropriately cared for after your death because you did not update your living trust. Having an estate plan in your safe that is not up to date is like having meat in your refrigerator past its expiration date–it isn’t going to be pleasant when it has to be used.
Lawyers frequently advise clients to review their estate plans at least annually, to make sure their documents are up to date. Some will send a reminder post card each anniversary after your last will appointment. But what if the attorney stops sending post cards? What if you move? How can you ensure you periodically review your documents? Coincidentally, today is my birthday and that helped me come up with a solution to this problem.
Today I scheduled an appointment with an attorney to review our family estate plan. By making a habit of using my birthday to reflect on the past year’s events, and take a look at my estate planning documents, I have an easy-to-remember annual reminder in place. In our case, we recently sold a house and have a new relative in our family, so it is time to get new documents.
One caution: Do not attempt to update your documents by making pen and ink changes, inserting pages, or anything like that. Typically, marking the pages of a will invalidates the entire document. Seek legal counsel to properly execute new, legally binding documents.