Estate plans need to be updated periodically, especially by older adults. Frequently revising your estate plans is important as you age because your circumstances change more frequently than at previous points in your life.
While you and your estate planner should review your estate plan every two years once you are over the age of 55, there are several other life events that should also trigger a review.
Here are eight life events that will require a change in your estate plans:
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Thankfully, your golden years may be full of new additions to the family, whether your children get married or have children of their own. Estate changes may not be necessary after a new addition, but you may want to make them to pass down something to your new grandchildren or to a favorite daughter or son-in-law.
If you have been given a new diagnosis, you’ll likely spend some time reviewing what can happen as the illness progresses. A new illness may require you to give new health care instructions to your executor. For example, there may be some treatments you do not wish to receive and some you do. Your loved ones need to know this should you become unable to make your own health care decisions. Communicate your wishes in writing to your power of attorney as soon as you’re sure of them.
Over time, your opinion about the people in your life may change. Or, you may feel the same about them, but their circumstances may make them a poor choice as a power of attorney or trustee. Say you discover you and your daughter feel very differently about palliative care. Or, you find an old friend, whom you’ve named as trustee, has developed a gambling addiction. When their circumstances or your feelings change, it’s best to update your estate plan as soon as possible.
If you and your spouse separate, or if they pass away, you may need to set a new estate plan in motion. Critical positions like beneficiary, powers of attorney and trustee may now be left unfilled. Although this is a very emotional time, it’s best to make these changes as soon as possible as your estate is very vulnerable following a divorce or death.
If you’ve added a new asset (or sold one) you may need to account for the change in your estate plans. For seniors, these changes may mean closing a 401k or selling the family home.
Laws about estate planning and inheritance differ by state, so if you’ve made the move to a new one, you’ll need to update your plan with state laws in mind. Your estate planner should be familiar with these and how they can impact your specific plan.
Cupid works in mysterious ways and you can find love at any age. Many newly re-married seniors do not immediately realize that re-marriage will change existing estate plans by default. A will made before a new marriage is very likely to be contested and the last thing you want is your loved ones in conflict upon your death. Update your estate plans as soon after your wedding as possible and let your children and new spouse know where they stand so they won’t be confused at any change of plans upon your death.
Close friends and even children may pass before you do. In their grief, few people remember that the tragedy leaves their estate plans in disarray. You’ll have to fill any position that is now vacant and spell out an inheritance for any widowed children or the spouse of your deceased loved one.
If you update your estate plan regularly and after these life events, you can feel secure that your wishes will be carried out as you want upon your passing.
Plus, when you update your will routinely, there’s less likely your family will experience conflict over it, which is an important legacy to leave them.
Have you experienced a recent life event that required a change in your estate plans? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.