When it comes to an Estate Plan, every adult should have at least a basic plan in place. An Estate Plan is created, in large part, by executing legal documents. Each document addresses one or a few things, and all the documents come together to form a comprehensive plan.
Although establishing an Estate Plan is essential, it is necessary that an Estate Plan be reviewed and revised, from time to time, to ensure the plan continues to make sense and addresses the ever-changing goals and concerns of the principal. As time goes by, people change, circumstances change, relationships change, and laws change. Changes subsequent to the execution of a legal document can partially or completely impact its effectiveness.
Many legal documents require the principal to appoint others in various capacities. For example, a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy requires agents, and a Last Will requires executors. It is important that the principal assess whether those named remain the right individuals for the jobs. Things like the death or incapacitation of a named person, or the principal losing trust in a named person, should result in the named person being replaced in all documents.
Impactful life events are good times to revisit an Estate Plan. Here are three important events that should trigger a review of a plan:
- Having Children. Starting a family can come with a host of new consideration and concerns that were not present when an initial Estate Plan was created. For example, a Last Will can give parents the opportunity to appoint the person(s) who they want to become the legal guardians of their minor children in the event the parents pass away.
- Divorce. Because it is customary that spouses are heavily involved in each other’s Estate Plan, it is then important to adjust the Estate Plan following a divorce. The ex-spouse should be replaced by an appropriate person in all legal documents. And any document that directs an inheritance to the ex-spouse, like a Last Will or a trust, should be updated to reflect a new disposition plan.
- Increase in Net Worth. As a person acquires wealth, a more sophisticated Estate Plan may be required. To protect a person’s assets from things like the estate tax, it may be appropriate to consider more advanced planning measures, such as a trust and/or a gifting plan.
Whether you are considering establishing an Estate Plan for the first time, or if you already have a plan and want to ensure it is as comprehensive as possible, you should consult with an experienced Estate Planning attorney. The sooner you can better understand your Estate Planning options, the sooner you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with establishing the right Estate Plan.
By Wayne R. Carrabus, C.P.A., Esq., at Futterman, Lanza & Pasculli, LLP with offices in Smithtown, Bay Shore and Garden City, NY, and clients throughout metro New York. He concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration and Estate Taxes.