Actually drafting a will or estate plan is an important project that many people delay. If you have already taken the time to put your last wishes in writing, you may feel confident that you have protection regardless of what happens in the future.
You may have named a guardian for your children, declared how you prefer for people to split your property or explained your medical preferences in an advance directive. Now you assume that you won’t have to worry about who will care for your loved ones or what medical treatment you will receive if something unexpected happens.
Having an estate plan is responsible, and an important step for those who provide for other people or have significant assets. It’s also important to recognize that you will need to update those documents occasionally to ensure that they remain valid and enforceable. When might you need to update your estate plan?
When your health changes
Your advance directive and other documents will reflect your attitudes about medical care at the time that you first drafted them. When you are young and have a family depending on you, you may feel strongly about undergoing any and all necessary medical interventions, including life support, if something happens to you.
When you are substantially older or already coping with a terminal medical condition, your wishes about what treatment you receive will probably change. Updating your document to reflect your new medical wishes is important, as people can only follow the instructions that you have provided them.
When something significant changes for your family
Family members are often the main beneficiaries of estate plans, and they also frequently assume roles of authority when someone has an incapacitating medical condition. Spouses, children, parents and even siblings could play a role in your estate plan.
When your relationship with any of these people changes, your estate documents may need to change too. If someone dies, if you get divorced, if you remarry or if you have more children, you will probably need to make changes to your estate plan to reflect your new family situation.
When you gain or lose significant assets
An estate plan that discusses an asset you have long since sold could face challenges as being woefully out-of-date after your death. An estate plan that doesn’t address a newer asset may lead to speculation about your intentions for that property. If you acquire or get rid of any significant personal property, like real estate, investment accounts or a business, you may need to update your estate planning documents accordingly.
Knowing when to update your estate plan helps ensure that your documents adequately protect you.