Having your estate planning – that is, your living trust, your will, and your designation of death beneficiary forms – up to date is crucial to securing the wellbeing of you and your family in the event of your incapacity (illness) and when you die, either one of which may come unexpectedly. Life is dynamic: circumstances change over time. To maintain the relevance and effectiveness of your estate planning, it’s necessary to revisit and update your estate planning periodically. Estate planning is best done when there is no compelling reason to do so, and not when one is seriously ill.

Life Milestones and Changes:

Significant life events can impact on your personal and financial situations, necessitating changes to your will. It may become necessary to revisit and possibly revise your estate planning to ensure your planning gives effect to your current wishes and circumstances. Here are key events to consider:

  • Marriage: A major event that necessitates a re-evaluation of financial and estate plans.
  • Divorce: Your original estate planning is now obsolete and needs to be replaced.
  • Birth or Adoption of Children: Introducing new family members may motivate you to include them in your estate planning.
  • Death of a Loved One: This may affect your estate planning, particularly if the deceased was a beneficiary or executor.

Financial Adjustments

Changes in your net worth may necessitate adjustments to your estate planning where your plan involves monetary gifts to some beneficiaries and percentages in the remainder of the estate to other beneficiaries.

Assets that no longer are part of your estate. Selling property that is specifically gifted may occasion you to review your estate planning as such events may create an imbalance or unintended outcome.

Changes in Laws and Regulations

Estate planning laws change. Staying informed about legal developments and understanding how they may impact you is crucial. Periodic reviews of your will can help you identify any necessary amendments given the latest legal changes, and take advantage of any new opportunities to optimize your estate planning.

Health Changes

Your health status can influence decisions regarding healthcare directives and the appointment of guardianship for dependents. If your health deteriorates or improves, it’s important to reassess and perhaps revise your estate planning

Executor and Guardian Designations

The individuals you appoint as executors and guardians in your will play critical roles in carrying out your wishes. Over time, relationships may evolve, and the chosen individuals may no longer be suitable or available. Regularly revisiting and updating these designations helps ensure that responsible and trustworthy individuals are entrusted with these important responsibilities.

Ensuring Your Estate Planning Remains Current

Creating an estate plan is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires periodic reviews and updates. By staying proactive and considering life changes, financial adjustments, legal developments, health changes, and adjustments to key appointments, you can ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes and protects your legacy.

Aim to review your will at least every five years, and consult with your estate planning attorney to make any necessary updates. Keeping current will provide peace of mind.

The foregoing discussion is not legal advice. Consult a qualified attorney for guidance. Dennis A. Fordham, attorney, is a State Bar-Certified Specialist in estate planning, probate and trust law. His office is at 870 S. Main St., Lakeport, Calif. He can be reached at Dennis@DennisFordhamLaw.com and 707-263-3235.

“Serving Lake and Mendocino Counties for nineteen years, the Law Office of Dennis Fordham focuses on legacy and estate planning, trust and probate administration, and special needs planning. We are here for you. 870 South Main Street Lakeport, California 95453-4801. Phone: 707-263-3235.”