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When Should I Update My Estate Plan?

No matter how prepared you may feel about the future, you and your family’s personal and financial situation is subject to change at any moment for any reason. Whether it be due to changes in the economy, an unexpected personal emergency, or even a sudden windfall of assets, no one can fully predict the future.

This level of uncertainty is exactly why it is critically important to periodically review your estate plan with your estates & trusts attorney. We recommend that you meet with your estate planning attorney at least every 3 years to discuss your estate plan, your current personal and financial situation, and your future plans. However, certain life-changing events also call for scheduling a meeting with your estate attorney at your earliest possible convenience.

Changes in Marital Status

Whether you are looking toward a new union or contemplating a divorce, any change in your marital status should require you to make the necessary changes to your estate plan. As a newlywed, do not allow yourself to become so swept up in the immediate future that you neglect to make long-term life plans regarding your finances.

Without proper estate planning, you could inadvertently leave your new spouse without the financial support you would like them to receive after you are gone. Conversely, if you are separating from your spouse, it is likely you do not want to see them benefit from your estate. Regardless of which new life chapter you are about to take, meeting with your estate attorney should be one of the first steps you take.

Please note that the same applies to updating beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. We encourage you to review your beneficiaries throughout your lifetime, especially when life-changing events like marriage or divorce occur.


Welcoming a New Child

While you should start estate planning before you have a child, welcoming a new child into the world is one of the most essential times to update your estate plan.

For parents, your estate plan should address important questions regarding your child’s safety and well-being in the event of an unexpected tragedy. Factors such as guardianship, education, and financial support must be added and addressed in the update to your estate at this time. Whether you are welcoming a new child through pregnancy or adoption, we recommend meeting with your estate planning attorney long before your child arrives.

As your children age into maturity, it is always a good idea to update your estate accordingly, particularly when in-laws and grandchildren enter your life.

New Circumstances for Beneficiaries

Unfortunately, death, estrangement, and other factors may negatively impact your relationship with your beneficiaries. If a significant life-changing event occurs which would require you to re-think the distribution of your estate, meet with your estate planning attorney to make the necessary adjustments.

Remember, the assets of your estate are ultimately yours to control. Under most circumstances, if you believe, for any reason, that a beneficiary should not receive the gifts which you have set aside for them, you have every right to make that decision for yourself and your family.

New Legislation

As the political landscape in Washington, D.C. and Maryland changes, so too does federal and local estate and tax laws. Tax reform is a consistent conversation at the federal level and laws tend to be amended with each new administration and congressional body.  Maryland also periodically makes substantial changes to estate laws.

Pay attention to any sweeping changes to legislation, such as 2017’s Tax Cuts and Job Act, which may impact the status and taxation of your estate. Plan to meet with your attorney as these changes occur to fully understand any legal ramifications of these changes and their impact on you and your family’s future.

Changes in Your Financial Situation

Always remember to track the individual value of your assets if they are closely tied to investments such as land ownership or stock options. If your personal wealth grows or shrinks in any significant way, do not hesitate to meet with your estate planning attorney.

In addition to meeting with your estate planning attorney, remember to also contact your beneficiaries and update them as these life changes occur. While the distribution of your estate is ultimately yours to decide, do not neglect the considerations of those for whom it is designed to benefit.

Our estate planning services can help you and your family tackle any complex changes to your financial affairs and provide peace of mind at any stage of your journey.

At Sessa & Dorsey, we consider the bigger picture at hand and advise our clients on the best estate plan for their specific needs and desires. If you have questions about estates and trusts, please contact us at (443) 589-5600.

Related blog posts:
The Importance of Building a Long-Term Relationship with your Estates and Trusts Attorney
The Importance of Updating Beneficiaries on Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Policies
The Top 5 Benefits of a Trust

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