Life never stops changing. Whether you have an unexpected baby later in life or you get divorced after decades of marriage, you never know what will happen next. No amount of planning or preparation can minimize the influence of chaotic outside forces on your lived experience, but you can actively protect yourself and your family members from the worst consequences of unexpected experiences.
Your estate plan helps provide for your spouse, children and other dependent loved ones if you die unexpectedly. It can also provide you with protection and control in an emergency that leaves you incapacitated by allowing you to name who handles your financial matters or leave instructions for your medical wishes.
Your estate plan is important for you and the people that you love. However, the documents that you’ve created may occasionally require updates to reflect changes to your family and finances. How frequently should you review your estate plan and update it if necessary?
Experts recommend several reviews each decade
The more property you have and the more dramatically your life changes, the more important it becomes to frequently review your estate planning documents. For the average individual, reviewing a will, trust and advanced medical directive is something that should happen roughly every three to five years.
Life can change dramatically in those few years and necessitate a new approach to managing your medical care or supporting your loved ones. However, you don’t necessarily need to wait three years from your last review if you know an update is necessary.
If someone who you named as a beneficiary or in your powers of attorney recently died or became incapacitated themselves, you will want to act quickly to name someone capable of fulfilling those responsibilities or remove them as a beneficiary.
If you divorce or remarry, you will need to adjust numerous estate planning documents in most cases. Adding new children to the family or becoming a grandparent could also prompt you to completely rework how you intend to distribute your property when you die.
Make sure updated documents are in agreement
Frequently updating your estate plan may not do much to help you if you only update one document and leave others outdated.
When you have conflicting estate planning documents, your loved ones may not know how to uphold your wishes and may be more likely to end up fighting in probate court. The different terms you include in the documents might also undermine your wishes and lead to a different result than you intend.
Knowing when to update your estate plan and how to do so will help maximize your protection as you age.