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By John C. Murphy, COL (Ret)

You should review your estate planning documents on an annual basis. A lot can happen in a year.  When it is wise to set a meeting with your estate planning attorney?

Here are a few situations where people should consider setting an appointment with their estate planning attorney.

You haven’t revisited your estate plan.

If you notice a required change in your annual review at home, you need to set an appointment.  But what if nothing jumps out at you?  It’s still a good idea to set an appointment anyway every 2-3 years.  You may not be aware of how tax laws have changed during that time, and factors like portfolio values and your own goals may not be reflected accurately in your current estate plan.  In addition, your estate planning attorney may ask you questions you may not have anticipated.

Major life changes.

This includes a birth, adoption, death, marriage, or divorce.  Depending on your circumstances, you may need to remove or add a beneficiary or make changes to who you designate as your primary or subsequent Health Care Surrogate, Attorney in Fact, Pre Need Guardian, Trustee, or Personal Representative.

Grandchildren reaching the age of majority is another event that may warrant changes in your estate plan.  Steps can be taken to protect assets from squandering by irresponsible family members, access by outsiders who marry family members, and other situations that arise as family members become adults. 

Long Term Care

Serious health issues can mean significant expenses.  You can add provisions to your estate plan to help those you appoint get you, your spouse or a dependent child the care that is needed.  You and your spouse need to provide specific instructions to your Health Care Surrogate about the care you want or do not want.

New assets.

You’ll need to provide your estate planning attorney with an updated summary of your assets and liabilities.  To ensure a revocable trust has proper funding, you need to retitle most assets into the name of your Trust.  If you have a Will, are those assets titled to avoid probate?  This could include new investment accounts, real estate, life insurance policies, or sometimes retirement accounts. 

Revisit Beneficiary Designations

When you review your estate plan, do not forget to consider accounts with named beneficiaries.  Review beneficiary designations for your annuities, life insurance policies, IRAs and other retirement accounts.  Do you have a Payable on Death (POD) for your bank accounts?

Moved or moving.

Estate planning law varies from state to state, so you want to ensure your current plan will be valid in your new location. You do not need to revisit your estate plan just because of a move within the same state.

Creating an estate plan gives you the peace of mind that you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect you and your family for the future.  Keeping your plan up-to-date is just as important.  If your plan isn’t kept current, then it may not accomplish your goals.

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