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Is it Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

A lot of people will visit an attorney, create an estate plan and then file it away in a drawer somewhere, where it begins to “collect dust” so to speak. In real life, things change and it’s important that your estate plan reflects these changes.

For example, suppose you created an estate plan, bequeathed all of your assets to your spouse in the form of life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investments, bank accounts, etc. and ten years later, ended up getting a divorce.

Now, imagine you forgot all about the estate plan you created in the first year of marriage. Fast-forward 20 years from the date of your marriage, and you don’t get along with your ex. You’re extremely thankful that he or she moved to the West Coast, and you hope you don’t cross paths again.

Suddenly, you’re killed in an auto accident. If your original estate plan was left untouched and you don’t have dependents, guess who would receive all of your hard-earned assets? Your ex-husband or wife, that’s who!

According to the American Psychological Association, “about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” So, clearly, you definitely want to update your estate planning documents immediately following a divorce; however, there are other important life events that trigger the need for an estate plan update, including:

  • A child is born
  • You adopt a child
  • A grandchild is born
  • A divorce or remarriage
  • You become ill or disabled
  • Your spouse becomes ill or disabled
  • You buy or sell real estate
  • The state laws change
  • The tax laws change
  • You or your spouse receives a large inheritance
  • Your financial situation changes significantly
  • You have a falling out with an adult child
  • You change executors or successor trustees
  • You start or shut down a business
  • A non-profit or charity organization included in your will ceases to exist

We recommend that people review their estate planning documents at regular intervals; not just as a part of the estate planning process, but as a part of their “whole financial plann.” Depending on the circumstances, this can be done once or twice a year. If nothing major changes in your life, it’s wise to review your plan at least every three to five years, unless there’s a significant life event, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child.

For assistance with your estate plan, contact a Schenectady estate planning attorney from our firm. We’re available for our clients round-the-clock!