There is never a bad time to create an estate plan, but crafting your estate plan should not be a one-time event. Your familial and financial situations can change over time. The plans you made ten years ago for how your affairs should be handled may not reflect your present circumstances.
As a result, you should regularly review your estate plan and update it as necessary. But how often should you do this? Like initially creating your plan, there is never a bad time to review an existing plan to see if it needs updating. However, there are certain life events that should trigger a review and update to your plans, no matter how long it has been since you last reviewed them.
New Additions to the Family Call for an Estate Plan Update
The birth or adoption of a child, or another addition to your family, should warrant a review of your existing estate plan. Any comprehensive estate plan for individuals with minor children will nominate one or more guardians for those children while they remain minors. If you do not nominate a guardian, a court will appoint one for your children, who may or may not be a person you would want to care for your children.
The addition of a new child may also affect how you want your property distributed upon your passing. If this is your first child, you may decide that it makes more sense to set up a trust to provide for this child and any future children you may have as opposed to relying solely on a will.
Divorce and Marriage Should Prompt an Estate Plan Review
Another commonly-overlooked life event that should encourage you to review your estate plan is a divorce. A divorce decree does not automatically change all of your estate plan documents and beneficiary designations on retirement and investment accounts. If you do not take the time to review and update these documents and your overall estate plan, you may unwittingly give your ex-spouse a portion of your assets upon your passing.
Similarly, you should review your estate plan, including the beneficiaries designated on retirement and other accounts, after you marry. This may be especially important if your new spouse has children from a previous marriage that you would like to benefit from your passing.
A Large Inheritance or Acquisition Demands an Update to Your Estate Plan
Finally, if you recently acquired a valuable asset or a sizable inheritance, you may want to review your estate plan to ensure it reflects your wishes concerning the distribution of your estate. If you would like to transfer some or all of your recent acquisitions to a specific person or institution, a modification to your estate plan may be necessary to accomplish this goal.
How to Change Your Orange County Estate Plan
If you have a will, trust, or other estate planning documents, changing them is not as simple as making a few interlineations. If changes are not made in accordance with the law, a court may disregard them and frustrate your plans. Just as it is advisable to seek experienced legal help in crafting your estate plan, changes to that plan should be made with the advice and assistance of a qualified California estate planning attorney.
If you need an experienced set of eyes to review your will, trust, powers of attorney, or other estate planning document, give OC Wills & Trust Attorneys a call. Our California wills and trusts lawyers serve clients in Orange County and throughout the state with convenient office locations in Irvine and Huntington Beach.