Update your estate plan every 3 to 5 years or whenever you experience a life event. Although most people create their first estate plan when they get married or have a child, you should create your first estate plan when you turn 18.
Every adult should have an estate plan, and they should update it when they get married, welcome a new baby to the family, get divorced, and/or lose a loved one. Other life events may also inspire you to update your estate plan, including:
Even if your life remains constant, you and your attorney should revisit your estate plan every 3 to 5 years to double-check your documents for accuracy and help ensure you are in compliance with the most current laws.
Regularly revisiting your estate plan is crucial to protecting your final wishes.
When you get married, your spouse automatically stands to inherit in the event of your death. If you want to leave behind gifts for other family members, you will need to specify this in your estate plan. Having wills and trusts can also make it easier for your spouse to collect your assets if something happens to you.
During a divorce, your spouse still stands to inherit if you die before the divorce is finalized – unless you state otherwise in your estate plan. Your lawyer can help you draft new documents during the divorce, but you will have to update your estate plan again once the divorce is finalized.
After divorce, your spouse will no longer stand to inherit, but if they remain in your will, your loved ones may run into uncertainty and legal trouble after you die. Once your divorce is finalized, remove your former spouse from your estate planning documents if you do not want them to inherit.
If you do want them to inherit, you will still need to draft up new documents that identify your spouse as your ex-spouse and leave assets and gifts behind. Many people leave assets to their ex-spouses to help support their families – even after divorce.
By updating your estate plan during and after divorce, you can help make sure there is no confusion surrounding your final wishes.
Like spouses, children automatically stand to inherit in the event of your death. Still, you will want to communicate your wishes in an estate plan, especially if you are no longer married to the other parent.
Keeping an updated estate plan is particularly important if you have minor children because you will need to determine who will have custody if something happens to you and the other parent.
Many of our clients have children from multiple marriages and worry about potential conflicts that might arise after they’re gone. The best way to reduce the risk of conflict is to create and regularly update an airtight estate plan and talk to your loved ones about your final wishes – even if the conversations are uncomfortable.
Anytime your financial situation or significant relationships change, you should update your estate plan. As your life changes, so will your “final” goals and wishes, and acknowledging these changes in your estate plan is the best way to protect your loved ones and your legacy.
No one knows what life will throw at them – or when it will end – so the best thing you can be is prepared.
Whether you need to create your first estate plan or update an existing one, Cianci Law, PC is here to help. We proudly handle both family law and estate planning because we know how closely these practice areas are related, and we take a personalized, unique approach to every case.
Our job is to educate you, so you can make the most informed decisions. We can help you and your family maintain your way of life in times of change and trouble – even after you’re gone.
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