HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU UPDATE YOUR ESTATE PLAN?

Rocket Lawyer|Legal Guides

A good rule of thumb is that you should review your estate plan every three to five years or when there’s a big change in your life.

Here’s when you should take a second look at your estate plan:

After a big life event

More important than an occasional review is changing your estate plan along with your life. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a new child, the death of a close friend: these are the exact sort of events that should trigger another look at your Last Will and Testament. Obviously, taking care of your legal paperwork isn’t top of mind when you’re planning your honeymoon, say, but when you get back, why not sit down with your new spouse and plan for the future?

Periodically

Periodic reviews are important, since you may have accumulated some important assets between the time of writing your Will and the present. Perhaps you inherited some land or purchased a car or started your own business. Alternatively, perhaps you’ve liquidated some assets and a certain heir would now be left with nothing. Rereading your estate plan once every three to five years will catch those issues and allow you to make your Will and other important documents current.

How to change an estate plan

How you change your estate plan depends largely on what documents you need to make current. Commonly, people will file something called a Codicil to Will, which replaces old clauses in your Will with new ones. This is great when you’re adding a grandchild to your beneficiaries or removing a certain item or asset from your Last Will.

When you’re thinking about wholesale changes, such as those that might occur after a marriage, give serious consideration to creating a new Will. While it sounds like a lot of work to start from scratch, remember two things. First, you’ve already created a Will and being familiar with the process will make the second time go that much quicker. More importantly, the big life changes that prompt a new Will often necessitate making similarly big changes to your estate planning documents. Rather than going through each one and possibly forgetting or missing something, starting over gives you the peace of mind that everything’s sorted out just the way you want it.

Living Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney function similarly. Sometimes, a simple amendment can be made, while other times, a wholesale redo is in order. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before you get started.Marriage, divorce, or a new baby should make you examine your estate plan.CHAPTER 10

WHERE SHOULD YOU KEEP YOUR ESTATE PLAN?

Having a comprehensive estate plan won’t do you much good if no one can find it. Making and distributing copies of your estate planning documents are an incredibly important part of making sure your wishes are both known and followed. Here’s what you should know:

Where should you keep your estate plan?

Make sure you keep your estate plan in a secure place. Generally, that’s at home in a safe or in a bank in a jointly-owned safe deposit box. For married couples, it’s important that each spouse knows the location of both Wills (they can certainly be in the same place) and for unmarried folks, it’s smart to keep your original with a family member, your executor, or your estate planning attorney.

How do you make copies of your estate plan?

This is a tough question as laws here vary state by state. You should know that even a simple photocopy is better than nothing at all. Also, if there are any issues, two documents, say one held by your attorney and another held by your doctor, can be compared against each other to prove that the copies are true and legitimate.

Sometimes, this means getting official copies through a notary or even signing a couple copies of each during the original signing session. After all, you’re already in the room with witnesses. Why not have a few back ups?

Who should get the copies?

There’s a little wiggle room here on where to keep your original estate plan and who should get copies. This is definitely something that varies depending on your situation. In addition to distributing your estate plan to those you’re closest to (like family or close friends), you should also consider giving it to a few qualified professionals. Here are a few ideas:

  • Executor: Since your executor will be responsible for making sure your wishes are respected, make sure they have at least a copy, if not the original estate plan. It’s also a great idea to make sure your estate planning attorney and your executor are in touch and have each other’s current contact information.
  • Family: Your spouse, children, and other close family members will be the ones most affected by your estate plan. Make sure they have copies to reference if needed.
  • Your Physician: It’s a great idea to make sure your primary care doctor has a copy of your Power of Attorney and especially your Living Will. Talk about what your wishes are, the type of care you expect, and the procedures you’d like to avoid.
  • Your Attorney: Lastly, make sure your attorney has a copy. He or she will be able to distribute further copies to parties who need them (such as a probate court) and can take the lead, along with your executor, in making sure your wishes are respected.

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