Has your family experienced the birth or loss of a loved one? Have marriage or divorce altered your family dynamic? Major life events impact much of the environment around them, like ripples in the pond. They often serve as reminders to all of us that the plans we make are only as good as the information at the time of their making, and that information seems to constantly change. Mark these major life events by taking the opportunity to review your own plan and understand how these changes might affect your goals and desires.
Are the beneficiaries under your Will still the individuals that you would see receive your property at your death? Have their circumstances changed, or your attitude toward them shifted? Many individuals make their estate plan a single time and never revisit it again, ignoring the reality that children or loved ones mature, or in some cases demonstrate that maturity may yet be on the horizon. Take stock of the individuals that you have designated to receive your legacy and consider adjusting the plan accordingly.
Often, clients prepare their Wills and never give a second thought to how the rest of their estate might transfer upon their death. Non-probate assets, such as life insurance proceeds, retirement plans and even certain bank accounts might never be subject to your Will. When reviewing your Will, consider your assets that will pass outside of probate, and make adjustments to those beneficiary designations as well. Viewing the entire picture will enable you to ensure that you use every tool at your disposal to achieve your objectives.
When reviewing your Will, pay particular attention to the individuals that you have nominated to serve in a representative capacity, such as an Executor or Trustee. Your plan is merely a map, and the responsibility to follow it rests upon the shoulders of your most-trusted confidants. Like any other relationship, these too can change, and your confidence may fall in one person's favor while rising in another person's. As with every other part of your Will, when it's too late to change it, it's really too late to change it. Take the opportunity now to ensure that you've got the right people guiding the way.
Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Designations of Guardians are but the tip of the iceberg in documents that supplement a sound Last Will and Testament. They should never, however, be an afterthought. These sorts of documents typically become effective and important when the client is alive but unable to make a number of decisions for his or her own welfare. Your loved ones will rely upon documents like this in order to care for you and/or your property at a time when you are not able to do so for yourself. They should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the appropriate individuals will be in a position to assist you in every means necessary.