When you take the time to create an estate plan, you establish a legacy in the event of your death and put certain legal protections in place for the people who depend on you, including your spouse and children. There are numerous times throughout your life when your personal financial and legal situations may suddenly change.
Those changes may completely alter what you need from an estate plan. In any of the four situations below, you may need to make an appointment to go back over your existing estate planning documents and update them.
When you get married
Choosing to marry will result in numerous legal changes. For example, you will typically share ownership of the property you acquire and your income with your spouse unless you marry one another with a written agreement designating otherwise.
Your spouse will also have certain authority in the event of an emergency and certain rights after your death. Updating your estate plan to integrate your spouse’s needs and their rights under the law is typically necessary for any married adult.
When you divorce
It is quite common for people to create an estate plan together with their spouse and to name their spouse as the main beneficiary in many of their documents.
You will need to update your estate plan itself, as well as any life insurance paperwork, to remove your spouse as a beneficiary when you file for divorce. You will also want to remove them from any position of authority they may hold in powers of attorney, trusts or advance directives.
When your family grows or shrink
Maybe you have children, and suddenly you have new beneficiaries that require a guardian and assets to protect them if anything were to happen to you. Eventually, those children will marry and have children of their own. You may need to add grandchildren to your estate plan or make changes to protect and inheritance if one of your children divorces.
There can also be tragic scenarios in which someone’s beneficiary or another named individual from their estate plan dies before them, necessitating their removal from the documents.
When their personal property changes
Whether you just bought your first home or you started a business, you need to address large assets in an estate plan or risk them being a source of conflict later. Beyond challenges brought by family members and would-be beneficiaries, you have to also consider the possibility of collection activity or creditor claims targeting those assets.