When to Review Your Estate Plan

If you already have estate planning in place, you are ahead of the game.  However, estate planning is not a one-time event, but is a lifelong process - especially when you start early.  It is a good idea to review your plan at least every two years to ensure that the plan still reflects your circumstances and goals.  There are also certain life events which should automatically trigger a review of your plan.  Here are some of the most common and important events for which you should dust off the estate plan and consider possible revisions:

  • Marriage.  Marriage will likely require a complete overhaul of your estate plan - as spouses automatically acquire certain statutory rights in their spouse's estate.  If spouses come to the marriage with significant assets and children from previous relationships - as in later marriages - you may want to look into a Prenuptial Agreement to define how those assets will be treated upon death or divorce.

  • Birth of a Child.  It's highly recommended that everyone with children should have some form of estate planning.  At the very least, you should have Guardians named for your children.  You may also wish to have contingent minor trusts built into your Will so that your children do not come into their full inheritance at age 18.

  • Purchase of Real Estate.  Real estate purchases should automatically trigger a review of your estate plan - especially if your planning includes the use of Trusts or is set up to avoid probate.  Real Estate always goes through probate in Minnesota - unless you've taken proper planning steps before you pass away, such as using Trusts or Transfer on Death Deeds.

  • Divorce.  Divorce should trigger a thorough review of your estate plan to ensure that your plan reflects that you are no longer married.  Review beneficiary designations, trustees, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, etc.  
  • Death of a Beneficiary.  If a named beneficiary of your estate has passed away, it is a good idea to review how the death affects distribution.  You'll want to see where the property will go instead and see if that is still your wish.
  • Feuding with Beneficiary.  If you are experiencing sustained conflict with someone who stands to inherit under your estate plan, you may wish to limit that inheritance - depending on the situation.
  • Opening New Accounts.  When opening new accounts, you should make sure that they are set up to follow in line with the rest of your estate plan, i.e. correct beneficiaries or account titles/owners.

As you can see, your financial and social circumstances will change throughout your life.  Don't forget to review your estate plan once in awhile in order to avoid unwanted consequences.  Speak to an estate planning attorney if you have questions or think your plan may need updating.