I am often asked when an estate plan should be updated, and in fact I have written on it before. But it is important to revisit from time to time, particularly when there are new estate laws as there are now. In general terms, an estate plan should be reviewed in two instances:
- Each time there has been a birth, death, marriage, divorce, acquisition or disposition of property or a business in the family, and
- Every 1-2 years.
By “review” I don’t mean we need to dig up the binder (you do have a binder, right?), and pore over it, page by page. No. What I mean is that we need to think about what is in our estate plan. You should know it in detail because your lawyer explained it so well to you during the process! So, you want to review who your beneficiaries are, and whether the property distribution you’ve selected still is appropriate. You want to review who is your successor trustee/executor, as well as who acts as your agent on your powers of attorney. Have you changed your mind about your advance directive? These are the questions you should ask yourself, and it really should not take more than 20-30 minutes. Go through any changes in your family, and see if those changes, or anything else that has happened in the last year or two, make you want to change your estate plan.
In addition, if you have created your estate plan in the last five years, you may want to contact an estate planning attorney now to make sure your estate plan is still the most appropriate for you given the new laws and tax exemption.
In any event, if you have an estate plan that was created before 2008, or powers of attorney created before 2003, you really need to get an update, or at least an opinion on whether an update is necessary. I don’t know about other estate planning attorneys, but I don’t charge for an estate plan review, even for those estate plans I’ve not created myself. So what do you have to lose?