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A Healthy Estate Plan Needs A Regular Check-Up

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By Richard Nevins

Attorney at Law

Richard Nevins
A regular medical exam gives you a chance to discover if your body is in the early stages of a problem that can be prevented.  When you file your tax return every year, you probably use that opportunity to think about your finances for the past year and your financial plans for the coming year.

Your estate plan should also be the subject of a regular review.  An estate plan is a picture of how you will take care of your family when you are gone.  The picture will change over time, because your life, and the people who are a part of it, will also change over time. A good estate plan should not be though of as being solid as a rock, but as flexible as Jello.  The plan should be capable of adapting to the changing shape of your life.

So, how do you know when it's time to give your estate plan a check-up? Regular routines are usually easier to remember.  The IRS makes April 15th a difficult date to forget.  So why not use that to make a complete financial and estate plan and review your estate documents.

If you can identify with any of the following events, then an immediate review of your estate plan is in order.  If you expect that any of these events may happen within the next year, then you should discuss them with an estate-planning attorney so that you can make the appropriate changes in your plan.

California community property laws automatically give your spouse an interest in all property that is acquired or earned during marriage.  Also, when a divorce becomes final, your former spouse is automatically prohibited, by law, from inheriting under your will.  However, while you are separated, or while you are still in the process of making a divorce decree final, you may want to change your will or living trust to exclude your soon to be ex-spouse.

If you have adopted children, then you need to check to make sure that they are treated as you desire in your estate plan.

Children who are minors should have a guardian named in your documents. 

As your health, or the health of your spouse declines, you may want to name a new person, other than your spouse, to be either the successor trustee of your living trust, the executor of your will, or the successor agent for your financial power of attorney documents.

If your parents, grandparents, or other family member becomes financially dependent upon you, your estate plan should provide for their care.

Any changes in property ownership, including the purchase of a timeshare, should be reflected in your estate plan, particularly if you wish to avoid probate of those assets.

Moving to another state requires a major review of all estate planning documents because both trusts and wills are regulated by the laws of the state where you reside.

Richard Nevins has been an attorney for 18 years.  His law firm provides legal advice in estate planning and small business law.  For more information, please visit his website at www.RichardNevins.com

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