Written by Attorney Kelly Austin

One of the most common questions surrounding estate planning is how frequently clients should update their documents.  At a minimum, we suggest clients review their existing estate plan with an attorney every five (5) years to discuss potential changes in the law and assess their plan’s suitability to their present and projected future circumstances.  However, there are numerous life changes that may warrant immediate and necessary revisions to your estate plan so it may function efficiently to achieve your objectives and best protect your family.

We recommend contacting an attorney to discuss updating your estate plan if you have recently experienced or are currently experiencing any of the following life events:

Expanding Your Family.  It is important to make provisions for new family members, including a new spouse, children, and grandchildren.  Marriages, births, and adoptions can be some of the most joyous reasons to update your estate plan and warrant timely new provisions to effectively protect your loved ones.

Death of a Loved One.  If someone named in your estate plan as either a beneficiary or fiduciary has passed away, you may need to amend your documents.  An experienced estate planning attorney can walk you through the terms of your estate plan, highlight any vacant roles, and suggest where to include contingencies for any future family changes.

Divorce.  A divorce or separation will correspond with a change in how assets are owned and titled, and likely necessitates a large revision to the dispositive provisions to your Last Will and Testament and/or Trust.  Generally, clients undergoing a divorce will want to remove their ex-spouse from any fiduciary roles, replacing them with a trusted friend or family member they find more suitable to assist them going forward.

Children Aging and Maturing.  Provisions for children should evolve along with their age and maturity level.  While your children are minors, your estate plan should incorporate Trust and Guardianship provisions to best protect them in the event that you pass away.  As your children enter adulthood, however, you will likely want to remove these provisions, or perhaps extend any Trust terms as they approach the age of termination listed in your documents.  As children mature and advance well into adulthood, you may even wish to promote your adult children to the fiduciary roles listed in your documents.

We also recommend that any child over the age of eighteen (18) years establish their own Health Care Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney enabling a family member to assist them in the event of a crisis.  This can be particularly important for adult children as they head off to college and away from their parents for the first time.

Evolving Relationships.  Over time, you may no longer experience the same close, trusted relationship with persons named in your estate plan.  Friends and family may move far away, drift apart, or act in a manner that causes you concern about them serving as a fiduciary.  Additionally, you may feel that a new key player in your life would better fill certain roles in your estate plan.  You should be confident that each person listed in your documents is the right individual for that position.

Business Concerns.  Starting a business, selling a business, or purchasing an interest in a business may mean significant changes for your estate plan.  It is important for you to know what happens to your business interest upon your death.  If your business succession objectives do not align with your current plan, you may need to revise your estate plan and/or business documents.

Changes in the Law.  Changes in the law are inevitable and necessitate a reexamination of your estate plan to ensure your documents are up-to-date and will effectively fulfill your objectives.

Moving Out of State.  While out of state estate planning documents are valid in North Carolina, we do recommend updating your estate plan if you are a new North Carolina resident.    North Carolina based documents are easily recognizable to local courts, banks, and financial institutions, and therefore will function most efficiently for you.

Change in Financial Status.  Any significant fluctuation in your assets not only warrants a reexamination of your estate planning documents, but also the tax implications associated with the change.  Common examples of such scenarios include receiving an inheritance, securing a higher paying job, or making plans to move into a long-term care facility with a substantial monthly cost.  An experienced estate planning attorney can discuss the best avenues for asset protection as your financial landscape evolves.

Contact Us

Please feel free to contact our team at Bailey & Thomas, P.A. to discuss your estate planning needs.  We look forward to guiding you through any recommended revisions to your estate plan to best protect you and your family through each of life’s phases.