Your estate is made up of all your money, property, and assets — and it’s alive. Not literally, but think of it like a beautiful, low-maintenance house plant. Once you pick it out and place it in the right spot, it’ll just need a little attention to keep it happy.
Like the house plant, once you have a solid estate plan in place, it’ll need some attention here and there. Why? Because it need to be updated as your life changes.
Which specific instances call for an update? Glad you asked. If you’ve experienced any of the following things, then it’s time to give your estate plan an edit.
A Walk Down the Aisle
It’s easy for estate planning to get put on the back burner in the midst of planning a wedding or honeymoon, but it’s the perfect time to get an updated plan in place. This could be as simple as updating emergency contacts and naming your spouse as a beneficiary for existing health and insurance benefits — or it could be a little more complex, like buying your first life insurance policy.
Here’s why it’s important to make updates at the onset of marriage — your money may not automatically go to your spouse when you die, or it might (and you may not want that). Whether you want all of your money to go to your spouse or not, nothing is certain if you haven’t specified what you want in the event of your death.
Some people completely erase exes from their will, but you may still choose — or be legally obligated — to leave funds to your former spouse. Maybe it’s part of a court settlement, or for child care, or because things ended amicably and you simply want to. Figure out what, if anything, you’d like to bequeath and make the change to prevent any future drama.
Here’s a short list of other things you need to update after a divorce:
- Beneficiary designations (examples: Life Insurance or Retirement Accounts)
- Emergency contacts
- Shared passwords
- Power Of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy
New Additions to the Family
When you have a new baby, everything changes — including your estate plan. First you need to name guardians in your will — or get a will in place if you haven’t already — and don’t forget to include your bundle of cuteness as a beneficiary. If you have more kids, including adoption or stepchildren, repeat as necessary.
As your kids transform into full-fledged adults with spending power, it’s also important to periodically assess their place in your estate plans to make sure everything is equally distributed or split however you see fit.
The main goal here is to make sure your children are provided for as you’d like, and to help prevent family rifts after you're gone.
Sadly, you may outlive some of the people named in your documents. If your health care proxy, power of attorney, or executor dies, you’ll need to do the following:
- Name new ones, or
- Elevate your alternates to primary position
- Name new alternates
If a beneficiary passes away, you should reallocate their inheritance to other living heirs or charities close to your heart. Similarly, if the appointed guardian of your children or special needs adult passes, it’s vital to designate a new one.
Along these lines, it’s also common for people who recently lost someone close to become inspired to get a plan in place before it’s too late.
It’s never pleasant to think about, but this is as real as it gets. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or serious illness, and you’re faced with the reality of your own mortality, it’s best to start preparing now before becoming physically or mentally disabled.
Start with filling out your state’s advance directive form and decide who you’d like to care for you or make medical decisions on your behalf if you became incapacitated. Then work your way up to the heavier stuff. This includes talking with your doctors about completing a DNR or POLST form if it’s available in your state, as well as creating an ethical will to make sure your legacy lives on and no longer putting off funeral wishes.
New Laws & Landscapes
This is when we suggest calling in the pros like financial professionals and estate attorneys. Federal and state laws can change at any time and throw your current plan into chaos. If you move to another state, definitely read up on its codes and fill out any documents required for that state. For example, the advance directive from your old state might not hold up in the new one.
Money, Money... MONEY!
A big salary increase or a sudden windfall from something like an inheritance or a great day at the track means a big bank account bump. Perhaps you didn’t think it was important to get a plan in place before, but now that you have finances worth protecting a trip to a financial professional or estate attorney is mandatory. The same applies when you purchase pricey assets like homes or vehicles, or if you find yourself on the winning side of any lucrative businesses ventures.
Related: How To Manage A Large Cash Windfall
It’s also important to realize that a bigger estate might lead to more people fighting over it. Nip any possible disputes in bud and look into creating a trust. With a trust, you can set up specific and ironclad asset allocations for the heirs in your will. Once it’s in writing you can rest easy knowing your fortune won’t go to waste.
Things to Consider:
- Your will isn't just about your money; it also includes naming a guardian for underage kids or special needs adults, as well as a person to manage your estate once you're gone.
- Whether you’re single or not payday increases, new pricey assets, and sudden windfalls are all reasons to consider updating or creating an estate plan.
- It may not seem urgent to update your will as your life changes, but taking the time now can save you, and your loved ones, stress or heartache down the line.
This article is provided by Everplans — a life and legacy planning company dedicated to transforming the way people get their families organized. For more information, visit: everplans.com.
Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax, investment or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors and financial professional regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.