When Should You Change Your Estate Plan?

You completed and executed your estate plan. Everyone you’ve selected to serve — your agent, guardian for minors, trustees, health care proxy, and your personal representative, —has signed the paperwork. All set?

For now, yes. But it’s a good idea to review these selections annually, because change is inevitable as time goes on. Your life will change, as will the lives of the people you have designated to serve in your plan. Mark New Year’s as the time to consider if your plans will still be effective.

When should I consider replacing people? Any time there has been a big life change that could affect his/her ability to serve in the role.

Examples include unexpected events such as a health care crisis, an unexpected death, or a job loss, as well as other transitions like divorce, relocation, or remarriage. Imagine your choice for guardian has just given birth to twins. How well can she care for your child in these new circumstances?

Another consideration is time. The relatives from your parents’ generation who stepped forward when you first made your plan as a young family may no longer be up to the task. You may no longer have as strong a relationship with your college roommate as with your new sister-in-law. You always want to be confident that your guardian or trustee is competent an willing to take on the additional work.

What events in your life might make you reconsider? Apply the same standard to your own circumstances. Do you want the same team if you’ve had to relocate to another city? What if you become widowed or divorced? Also, bear in mind that if you are the parent of a special needs child once he or she hits the age of majority, you will no longer be able to make a lot of the decisions that you have probably been making for him during his childhood. This is a good time to check in with your special needs planner to go over what you’ll need to do for this transition, including guardianship and conservatorship.

You are in the best position to know what matters most. You chose the agents in your plan to meet this standard. Stay in touch with them regularly and evaluate their ability and willingness to serve. Then don’t be afraid to take the next step and update your plan with your attorney. If they are truly in tune with your situation, they will appreciate your your reasons.

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