Many people in Virginia believe that you can’t change your estate plan once you establish it. Nothing could be further from the truth as people change their estate documents frequently. If you have estate documents tucked away in a filing cabinet or saved somewhere on your computer, how do you know when it’s appropriate to modify them?
Not all documents may require modification
When you have crafted an estate plan, you may breathe a sigh of relief as you feel you have finally accomplished something. However, estate planning is fluid, as your life can change in many ways as the years go by. Although you should regularly review all documents, you may only need to change a few. These are the areas where documents may require modification:
- Following a significant life change
- A relationship with a beneficiary or designated agent changes
- You move to another state or country
- Following a significant financial change
Significant life changes are the most common reasons for changing your estate plan. If you get married or divorced, have children or grandchildren, or reach an important milestone such as paying off a considerable debt, you may want to consider modifications in trusts and other instruments. One of the most significant is not realizing that a designated beneficiary or agent may have died, leaving those documents invalid.
Review documents every three to five years
Even if you’re not sure whether you need to update your estate plan, consider reviewing your documents every three to five years to look for things that don’t look quite right or obsolete life situations. Remember, you’ve already done the hard work. Making modifications is easy. Pay particular attention to powers of attorney, advanced medical directives and your will to ensure that your property goes to desired beneficiaries and that your wishes are properly carried out.
Updating your estate plan has another benefit; you’ll get peace of mind knowing that everything is in order. Beyond your wishes, a revised plan will make it easier for your executor to settle your estate when your loved ones don’t have to haggle over assets.