The beginning of the year is a great time to set goals for making improvements. Although eating healthy and working out are good resolutions to make, everyone should also resolve to make sure their estate plans are up-to-date. And even better news—office sheet cake isn’t going to de-rail you from sticking to this goal.
Estate planning documents—wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents—are created with the intent that you will never have to change them or get new documents. These documents do not become stale or invalid after a certain number of years. Life changes, however, necessitate amending your plan. Babies are born, children grow up, and people pass away. People get married, get divorced, or move away. You also become older and your estate planning goals may change. All these factors can greatly influence your plan.
It’s a good idea to review your estate planning documents every few years to make sure everything is still the way you want it to be. Are the people you’ve named to act for you as your power of attorney still appropriate? Is the person you’ve named to wrap up your affairs after you die still a good choice? Are your assets going to be distributed to the people you now want to receive them?
Lastly—and very importantly—it’s critical to make sure assets you’ve acquired since your estate plan was created are set up to be distributed the right way. Did you buy new real estate that needs to be added to your trust? Did you open a new financial account that you need beneficiary designations? Even if you have the most perfectly drafted trust, it will not keep your entire estate out of probate if an asset is still in your name when you die.