Given the dynamic nature of life, as it is constantly changing, ensuring one’s estate planning documents are adjusted to remain current and relevant to each corresponding change in life is critical.
One should be cognizant of the need to revise an estate plan (including Advanced Directives) upon marriage, divorce, and even cohabitation. Such proactive planning would avoid possible unintended consequences and provide adequately for a change in one’s circumstances.
Failure to do so could be problematic for many reasons. For example, some jurisdictions presume that one who fails to update one’s Last Will and Testament or Trust after marriage did so unintentionally (i.e., not because of their intentional omission of the spouse).
Similarly, one should also consider revising their estate planning based on any notable life changes to their beneficiaries. For example, the birth, death, or incapacity of family members often require modification to one’s estate plan for the prudent person seeking to effectuate their long-term estate planning desires and bequests.
For example, if a beneficiary becomes subject to future debt/creditor problems or transitions into being the recipient of needs-based government benefits, then unrestricted gifts often become illogical. Rather, an Asset Protection Trust or Special Needs Trust, as the case may be, may be advisable.
For that matter, when one’s intentions change in any substantive way, such revised intentions should be reflected in one’s estate plan. Further, Asbury Law suggests consulting an estate planning attorney at least every 3-5 years to ensure whether changes in the law since your estate plan was executed negatively affect the disposition and basis of your existing testamentary intentions.
However, not all significant life events necessitate the revision of one’s estate plan. For example, the purchase and sale of trust assets do not necessarily require an estate plan change. This would be the case, for instance, where the estate is premised upon percentage distributions. Nevertheless, specific bequests (i.e., “my son shall get my gold Rolex…”) are often important due to their inherent value or for sentimental reasons. If a specific bequest is sold, revisions to one’s estate plan would be advisable to avoid potentially unintended consequences.
The rule of thumb is that people should revisit their estate planning documentation at least every 3-5 years, but sooner if there are changes relating to cohabitation, birth, death, marriage, divorce, and the like.