Estate planning, rather than being a task that one takes care of and checks off a list, is something best thought of as a process. After drawing up an initial estate plan, one should periodically review it and make any necessary changes. This ensures that the estate plan still serves the purposes for which it was created and is keeping up with changes in the law.
When should these estate plan reviews be done? Some people do them yearly. It depends on the circumstances, but an estate plan should generally be reviewed any time there is a major change in one's life.
One example is marriage. A review of one's estate plan prior to marriage will allow one to update one's living trust and Will, address how separate property will be dealt with. Some couples will come to the table with prenuptial agreements, and these can be factored in.
Divorce or the death of a spouse is another good time to review one's plan. One will want to take a look at one's beneficiaries, trustees and Powers of Attorney and make any necessary changes.
Purchasing or refinancing a home can be another occasion to make changes to one's estate plan. For those who have trusts, it is important that property be placed back in trust after refinancing or put in the trust when title is taken.
When new accounts are set up-whether savings accounts, brokerage accounts or mutual fund accounts-it is important to make sure they dealt with in the estate plan. For those who want to avoid probate, the accounts should be placed in a trust.
The birth or adoption of a child is also a critical time to review an estate. Selection of guardians and any inheritance provisions should be addressed.
It is important, in updating one's estate plan, to do so with the help of an experienced attorney. This will ensure that everything is put together properly and that the plan serves one's overall goals.
Source: Forbes, "5 Life Events That Require An Estate Planning Review," Michael Chamberlain, August 13, 2012