When to Update Your Estate Plan

When do I need to update my estate plan? How often should I make changes? When should I come back to you?

These questions are often asked at the end of the estate planning process, after estate plan documents are signed. There is no clear “one size fits all” answer to these questions. When and how frequently a client should update or revisit an estate plan depends upon the client’s situation. These are my general recommendations that may help you determine when you should update or revisit your estate plan.

  • You should update your estate plan if you wish to change any provisions or fiduciary appointments in the documents.
  • You should update your estate plan if the beneficiaries in your Will or Trust or the people you have named as fiduciaries have died, are now disabled, or are no longer your desired beneficiaries.
  • You may need to update your estate plan if your life circumstances have changed – for example, you’ve married or had a child; you’ve divorced; your spouse or child has died; you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness; or you’ve had a significant wealth event, such as a large inheritance or business liquidity event.
  • You may want to update your estate plan when you’ve reached a new stage of life – for example, your young kids are now college students; your teenagers are now fully grown adults; or you’ve retired. As life changes, you may think differently about the estate planning decisions you made years ago.
  • You may need to update your estate plan because of changes to the law. Rely on your attorney or financial advisor to alert you to these changes. I do my best to alert my clients. I also prepare estate plans that include built-in flexibility to adapt to some future changes to the law. If you wish to follow changes to the law yourself, there are some online resources you may consult. I like many of the articles on Forbes.com. They are generally well-written and easy to digest.