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Are you really done after you have an Estate Plan?

It almost goes without saying that, “The only constant in life is change.”  Yet, most people believe that once they have established their Living Trust or Last Will and Testament and have setup other more advanced estate planning, that they are done.  Unfortunately, this thinking is perpetuated by a lot of estate planners who give their clients the impression that creating an estate plan is a one-time deal and who never follow up later with their clients, so their clients just think that everything is still okay.

This may be one of the biggest estate planning mistakes you ever make.

Why your Estate Plan needs to be reviewed:

1.    Laws change over time
For example, has your Living Trust been brought up to date with the newest estate tax and capital gains laws?  Are your Powers of Attorney and Health Care documents up-to-date?  (Don’t think this applies to you or don’t care?  Read on.)

2.    Needs of Beneficiaries change
For example, a beneficiary for whom you set up a long-term trust may, after you’re gone, demonstrate the ability to properly manage assets at a younger age and should have the trust terminated early either in part or in whole.  Or, a beneficiary with drug or alcohol problems may later prove to be “clean” for an extended period of time and can be distributed part of his or her trust as a reward and incentive for staying clean.  A spendthrift trust beneficiary may later become very responsible and capable of managing on his or her own, particularly if he or she has an important life change like a marriage or raising a family. A beneficiary receiving government benefits may no longer need them after you’re gone or the benefits may no longer be available, in which case you would not want to continue to tie up his or her inheritance in a very restrictive special needs trust.

3.   Your relationships with people change
Do you still have the right Trustees named?  Have some of them passed away, demonstrated that they are not as capable of acting as you thought, moved away or simply don’t have the same relationship with you anymore?  Might there be other individuals who you did not originally name as Trustee because they were too young or inexperienced, but are now capable of acting?  And, what about your relationships with your beneficiaries?  Does the distribution pattern you originally set up still reflect your wishes in terms of the amount you want to go to various people?  Do you now want specific assets, like a property one beneficiary lives on, to go to that particular beneficiary?  Are there others, such as grandchildren, you might now want to add to receive a share?

If you haven’t reviewed your Living Trust or Last Will and Testament (and other estate planning documents) within the last 3 years, get to a qualified estate planning attorney right away!  Our clients are entitled to – – and are strongly reminded by us to – – come in for a free attorney review every 3 years.  What good is a well-drafted estate plan that becomes out-of-date or even obsolete by the time it comes to use it?

If you have questions about your current estate plan, call our Charlotte, North Carolina Estate Planning firm at 704-843-1446 and request a review.  If you don’t know what your Estate Plan says then how will it be able to help you?

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