Many people think of estate planning as a goal that they need to accomplish eventually. They put it on a list and then cross it off when they get done with it. They feel prepared for what the future holds.
The reality, though, is that that is not good enough. Don’t think of estate planning as something that you need to do once, allowing you to check it off and then count it as something you have already done. That’s better than having no plan at all, but you really need to make it a consistent process. You need to review your plan. You need to make sure it’s up to date.
Some experts suggest doing this annually or semi-annually. It may be best to just get on a set schedule so that you carry out the review on a regular basis.
Why do a review?
The biggest reason to do a review is that your situation may have changed. Did you spend a lot of the money you planned to leave to your children? Did you acquire more assets? Every change needs to be reflected in your estate plan.
For instance, maybe you had to move into a nursing home. It’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. When you wrote the estate plan, you left all of your money to your children. Now it’s clear that you are going to spend a significant amount every year until you pass away, so there may not be enough left for the initial gifts.
Or, maybe you started your own business. Your estate plan doesn’t mention it at all. Do you want to leave it to your children to run? Do you want to sell it and give them the proceeds? What does this all mean for the employees? There are many questions to ask.
You also want to think about changes that are out of your control, that impact other members of your family. Do these changes alter what you want to do with your estate?
Maybe a new grandchild was born, for example. The old estate plan left them nothing, but now you want to make an educational trust to pay for their college tuition in 18 years. Or, maybe one of your children got divorced. You want to cut their ex out of the estate plan and make sure your money stays in your family.
Making a plan
If you don’t have an estate plan, be sure you know what steps you can take to make one. If you do have one, think about how often you want to review it and what changes you may make. Carefully consider all of the options that you have.