Many adults would love to treat estate planning like a kitchen appliance. They want to set it up and forget about it for the rest of their lives. Yes, a will that you draft when you first get married in your thirties can still potentially guide the division of your property when you die in your seventies.
However, your family circumstances have likely changed substantially since then. Just creating a will or other estate planning documents isn’t enough to fully protect you and the family members that depend on you. You also need to make changes to the plan if your financial situation or family changes as life goes on.
Otherwise, your estate plan may not reflect your true wishes or could be vulnerable to a challenge in probate court. What do you need to do when you review and update your estate plan?
Check who you named as beneficiaries
Did you have more children, get divorced or lose a spouse to cancer and then remarry? There may be very outdated information in your estate plan discussing these people who are no longer part of your family.
When you update your will, you also need to update any beneficiary designations for specific accounts or insurance policies as well. If there is a conflict between your estate documents and your beneficiary designations, the information attached to accounts and policies will take priority over your estate documents. Making sure these papers align with one another is of the utmost importance.
Ensure you include appropriate assets
Have you included your biggest asset, such as real estate holdings and businesses in your estate plan? The earlier in life you create your documents, the more likely it is that your initial estate plan does not include all of the property you currently own.
You may need to remove assets from your estate plan if you have already liquidated or gifted them to others. You may need to add other valuable assets to it so that your preferences determine who inherits that property.
Inaccuracies make challenges easier. If someone in your family or inner circle wants to challenge your estate plan, old and outdated documents will make it’s easier for them to bring a successful challenge in probate court. Frequently reviewing your estate documents and ensuring that they comply with probate laws can help you maintain control over your legacy now and after you die.