Life is a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. As you journey through its various phases, your priorities and needs evolve. The same should apply to your estate plan. Major life changes like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or even retirement require immediate attention to your estate planning documents.
Here’s how you can effectively update your estate plan to adapt to these significant milestones.
Identifying the Trigger Points
First and foremost, recognize what constitutes a “major life change.” This could be anything from:
- Getting married or divorced
- Having a child or adopting one
- Experiencing significant financial shifts
- Retiring or changing careers
- Relocating to a different state
- Experiencing a major health condition
If you find yourself going through any of these life-altering events, it’s time to revisit your estate plan.
Marriage: Combining Two Futures
Marriage is not just a union of two hearts but also a merging of assets and future plans. If this is a first marriage, you may need to update beneficiaries, consider establishing a joint trust, or revise your durable power of attorney. In the case of a second marriage, complexities like stepchildren and previous commitments could arise, demanding specialized trusts or prenuptial agreements.
Parenthood: Securing the Next Generation
The joy of welcoming a new life brings the responsibility of guardianship and financial security. Update your will to include a guardianship clause for your child. You may also want to include a testamentary trust to ensure that your assets are well-managed until your child reaches a certain age.
Divorce: Untangling Legal Threads
Divorce is a legal quagmire, affecting not just marital assets but also existing wills, trusts, and power of attorney designations. Revoke any benefits accorded to your ex-spouse and update your documents to reflect your current wishes.
Financial Changes: Rethinking Asset Distribution
Significant changes in your financial situation, be it a windfall gain from an inheritance or the sale of a business, require recalibration of your asset distribution plans. This is also a good time to reassess tax implications and possibly consult a financial advisor alongside your estate planning attorney.
Retirement: Shifting Focus from Earning to Preserving
The golden years of retirement mean a shift from asset accumulation to preservation and distribution. Update your estate plan to reflect your retirement income, revised healthcare needs, and any changes in beneficiaries.
Health: Planning for the Unforeseen
Major health conditions can be a wake-up call to examine your healthcare directives. Ensure your living will reflects your current desires regarding life-support measures, and reevaluate your choice for a healthcare proxy.
Geographic Relocation: State Laws Matter
Different states have different laws surrounding estate planning. If you just moved to California, consult a local attorney to make sure your existing estate plan complies with local laws.
The Option of a Revocable Living Trust
Beyond your will, consider the benefits of a revocable living trust. This tool allows greater control over your assets and ensures a smooth transition of asset management in cases of incapacity, also bypassing the lengthy probate process.
Life is fluid, and your estate plan should be too. By proactively updating your estate plan to align with major life changes, you ensure that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are protected. So don’t wait – act now to keep your estate plan as dynamic as your life.
Let’s Get Started!
If your estate plan needs to be updated, we can provide the assistance you need. And of course, we can help you put your initial plan in place if you are completely unprepared.
You can schedule a consultation at our Los Angeles estate planning office if you call us at 310-677-9787. There is also a contact form on this website you can use to send us a message.