Please allow us to be frank. It’s unrealistic to think that a piece of paper you draft, reflecting your life at a certain time, will work when your life has completely changed some years later. We’ll use the James family as an example.
Meet the James Family
Meet Bob and Jill James. They got their first estate plan in place when their daughter, Susan, was born 30 years ago. They updated it when their son Jack came along 4 years later. About 10 years later, they worked with us to put a comprehensive trust-based plan in place, protecting themselves, their children, their grandchildren, and their dog, Muffy.
Unfortunately, the Jameses didn’t join their attorney’s client maintenance program; instead, they elected to take responsibility for arranging for updates themselves. Life got busy and, as you might guess, they never called to update their documents.
Here’s what’s changed in their lives in the last 10 years.
- Susan and James are now adults and have graduated from college.
- Susan is married and has two daughters. One of the girls may have autism.
- James is also married, and he and his wife are expecting their first child.
- Jill’s mother is now living with Bob and Jill.
- Bob and Jill bought a vacation home in Florida.
- Muffy had a litter of puppies but has since passed away. Bob and Jill kept two of the puppies.
Do you think their estate plan will still work the way they want it to?
Changes in Your Own Life
The Jameses have experienced a lot of changes, but those changes are typical of what 10 years brings. Think about the changes in your life over the past 10 years — or since you last updated your estate plan.
Have you moved? Do you have more children or grandchildren? Have you started a business, suffered health problems, or purchased a new home? Do you have new accounts and investments? Do you now care for a parent, pets, or dependent children? Have you remarried, gotten divorced, or retired? Has someone you loved died? Have friends or family named in your plan as trusted helpers moved away, or has your relationship changed? Are your children now adults and able to help you? Do you want to help with grandchildren’s college or dance lessons? Do you see the world in a different way?
Many things have happened in the past 10 years. Your estate plan needs to reflect the changes in your personal life, financial situation, and goals. There have also been changes in the law. As estate planning attorneys, we stay abreast of these changes to protect our clients in better and better ways, so the way we do things has changed.
Is Your Estate Plan Out of Date?
If you’ve experienced changes like the Jameses, or it’s been more than 3 to 5 years since you updated your estate plan, it’s time for a checkup, and likely, updates to your plan. Put it at the top of your list to contact your estate planning attorney today.