The importance of updating your estate plan
Many people think that once an estate plan has been developed, that’s one more item to cross off the to-do list. Just slip it into a drawer and forget about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. With every year comes change to accumulated and available assets. And one of the most important reasons to update an estate plan is the evolution of family over a lifetime.
Creating A Will
One of the first steps is of course establishing a will. A recent piece in USA Today Money called “Plan ahead: 64% of Americans don’t have a will,” points out that most Americans have yet to draw one up. Without that basic document, a court could decide how assets are divided. Once a will and plan are in place, there will be many positive things that require a gentle touch to how assets are dispersed.
Addition Of A New Family Member
The birth of a child or grandchild means that he/she will need to be accounted for financially. Should this new blessing have allotments go toward college tuition? Does the vision behind the plan aim more toward a trust that can be accessed after reaching the age of majority or 21 years old? Does a new member of the family simply mean changing the percentages tucked away in bank accounts or life insurance policies?
Distributing Special Personal Items
One of the more emotional charged aspects of someone’s passing is the disbursement of personal items and heirlooms. While these may or may not have considerable financial value, they are often the truest family wealth. Family members can attach a deep sense of connectedness to things such as wedding gowns, fine dining sets, grandpa’s fly fishing gear, the family silver, and many others. An evolving estate plan means more than dollars and cents to loved ones. The last thing anyone wants is putting people in the position of having to debate which items are more personal to them than another family member.
Remarriage can also greatly affect an estate plan. As we grow older and people pass, there’s still a need for love and companionship. Coupling provides seniors a particular comfort as lives become less active. New marriages lend themselves to striking a new balance in terms of assets. A spouse may want to designate certain things to his/her partner but at the same time have other accumulated assets pass to children, grandchildren, siblings and those who have touched their lives. One of the more complex items pointed out in CNN Money’s “Ultimate guide to retirement” discusses ongoing pension benefits and who may be eligible to receive them. This can be complicated and an attorney’s insights could prove invaluable.
Good estate planning means making changes that reflect the evolving aspects of family life. By periodically revisiting that vision with an attorney will provide peace of mind for the entire family.