Writing an estate plan is a task that many Californians tend to put off for later, but planning early can help protect their families in case the unexpected occurs. If you have already created an estate plan, however, it is not something that you should simply set aside and forget. Estate plans should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they continue to accurately reflect the life circumstances of the authors. In general, you should review your estate plan and update it whenever you undergo major changes in your life.
Marriage, divorce, remarriage, and new children
Whether you are preparing to marry, getting divorced, remarrying, or having a new child, you should review and make the necessary changes to your estate plan. If your plan is not updated to reflect the changes in your family situation, you could end up accidentally disinheriting a child or leaving a portion of your estate to a former spouse. Any time your family situation changes, reviewing and modifying your estate plan is in order.
Death, taxes, and career changes
The death of one of the beneficiaries of your estate, the person you have named as a guardian for your children in your will, or your named trustee or executor will require you to take a look at your estate plan. If you do not update your plan to reflect these changes, a portion of your estate may pass by the intestacy laws rather than in the way you intended. Tax law changes should also prompt a review to make sure that your plan still provides the most protection from the potential estate and gift taxes. Finally, if you change careers or start a business, your estate plan should reflect your new situation.
There are other situations in which you should review your estate plan. Anytime you go through major changes in your life, it is a good idea to read through the documents and make sure that they still reflect your wishes and situation. Estate planning is not meant to be static, and failing to update your plan can result in unintended consequences for your family after you pass away.