Guest column: Estate plan needs regular updates
July 28, 2010
People often think that when they get their estate plan done, they never need to think about it again. It's put away in a safety deposit box, forgotten about it and the owners think they are set for life. However, nothing is further from the truth.
Keeping an estate plan up to date is not something that should fall through the cracks. There are many reasons to review and update your estate plan regularly: individuals named as beneficiaries are now deceased or should no longer be named; new people should be named (such as a birth or adoption); a significant asset has been acquired or disposed of; choice of guardians, personal representatives or trustees has changed; relocation to a different state; or a divorce or marriage has occurred.
Based on current legislation, the estate tax laws in 2009 were different than 2010, and again will change in 2011. This does not mean that previously drafted estate plans will not work, but the current structure of the plan may no longer be in the owner's best interest.
If you do not have an estate plan in place, it is something to start thinking about today. Don't let the state decide how to distribute your assets or who should be making decisions if you are unable. You decide. Too often people think if something happens to them, a godparent would be the guardian of their children. But without a will, there is nothing in writing and it will be up to the court to choose a guardian. Don't take the risk. Put your decision in writing. This is a decision you should be making, not the court.
All estate plans should be reviewed every three to five years, and that includes disability documents, such as the durable and health-care powers of attorneys. Remember, estate planning is not a one-shot deal. It's a lifelong process that needs to be reviewed when there are changes in your life and changes in the laws.