Many adults who have drafted wills and other documents have a dismissive attitude about estate planning. They believe they have protection and won’t ever need to consider the matter again. However, the truth is that estate planning paperwork needs to be reviewed periodically to make sure that it remains accurate and up-to-date. Otherwise, someone’s will or other estate planning documents could face challenges in probate court or in the event of an incapacitating medical emergency.
How frequently should someone who already has a will, trust or other estate planning documents review and update their existing paperwork?
When life circumstances change
People never know when the person they named as the guardian of their children might die prematurely. Divorce, new children and the acquisition of new assets are all reasons that people may need to review and update their existing estate planning paperwork. Any major changes in someone’s relationships or financial circumstances would warrant a review. So could any major health changes that might alter their preferences regarding the medical care that they receive.
Even if someone has not experienced major life changes, will likely be a smart move to review estate planning paperwork when preparing for retirement. People may need to adjust their documents or make some major moves, like creating a trust, so that they could qualify for Medicaid later or protect their resources from creditors as they transition to living on a fixed income.
Every few years until they die
Barring major shifts in relationships or resources, it is typically smart to read over estate planning paperwork every few years. People may recognize that certain terms are no longer necessary. They can remove information about guardians once their children are adults. They can update the assets included in their documents to reflect what they have acquired since drafting them. Life tends to change in many minor ways year to year, so routine reviews can be as important as remembering to update documents after major changes.
Maintaining up-to-date estate planning documents can give a testator and their closest family members the most protection possible from hardship due to an emergency or someone’s death. Seeking legal guidance whenever questions or concerns arise is generally a good idea as well.