Creating an estate plan is only the beginning of establishing protections for your property and your loved ones. Over time, changes in your circumstances, e.g., the addition or loss of family members and other beneficiaries, along with any changes in tax laws may affect the provisions of your estate plan. To make sure that your beneficiaries receive your estate precisely as you intend, it is essential to review your estate plan regularly to account for these changes.
If you have an estate plan that you created years ago, in most cases, it is still better than no estate plan at all. However, the longer that your estate takes to resolve, the more considerable drain it places on the estate itself. If an estate hangs in this limbo for too long, the strain this puts on the assets of the estate may diminish it enough to seriously compromise how the eventual dispersal plays out.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to review the plan you have in place can ensure that it accounts for all of your life changes, as well as changes in Massachusetts and federal laws. The sooner you take steps to protect your rights and intentions, the sooner you can have the peace of mind that the needs of the ones you love are fully met.
Life changes that necessitate review
Depending on the complexity of your estate, and the size of your family, many modifications may justify a review of your estate plan. If you — or any member of your family — get married, divorced, is born or passes away, it is probably wise to review the plan. Often, these individuals are beneficiaries, and removing or adding them requires intentional actions.
Similarly, if you gain or lose significant assets, or if you change your mind about how you wish your estate to be dispersed, it is important to make these alterations to the document before you forget.
External changes in the law
Even if you do not experience any significant life changes for three or four years at a time, it is wise to take the time to review your plan at regular intervals. State and federal lawmakers are always fighting over the laws that govern estate planning and taxation, and these rules frequently change.
Most recently, Congress passed massive tax reform, which includes some implications for estate plans. In some cases, important protections that make significant differences to your plan may change or disappear altogether. If you go more than five years without at least a basic review of your plan, you may find yourself at odds with a new generation of estate planning and tax laws.
However you choose to protect your property and loved ones, do not put it off. Take the time to make sure your wishes are clear and your estate is protected while you still can.