Every New Year brings along with it opportunities for new experiences, challenges, and goals. While we think ahead to the possibilities of the near future, we also reflect on the events of the past year. Even in this time of reflection, it is easy to forget the importance of not only looking towards the future, but actively planning for it. If you already have an estate plan, New Year’s is the perfect time to take stock of your existing plan, read over the documents that make up your estate plan, and determine if any changes in your circumstances necessitate amending any provisions, or pursuing new strategies. If you don’t have an estate plan, New Year’s is the perfect time to begin the process of drafting one!
It is hard not to overstate the importance of revisiting your estate plans during the new year if significant time has passed since they were first made. One of the most common misconceptions about estate planning is that it is a “one and done” kind of process. Nothing could be further from the truth. Periodic review of your estate plan is crucial if it is to be both durable and effective in the long-term. Wills, trust terms, and similar elements of estate planning should be viewed as elastic, living documents, expanding and contracting, changing shape and morphing over time so as to reflect your changing needs, assets, and life circumstances. But your estate plan will not change shape to fit your needs if you do not have the documents, and if you are not vigilant, proactive, and take action when updates are necessary.
With some of the most significant life changes (i.e. marriage, divorce, parenthood, retirement, etc.), it is obvious that your estate plan needs to be revised to account for the new circumstances. But in many other cases, it can be much less obvious that a given change in circumstance necessitates revisions to your estate plan. Regular consultations with your estate planner/lawyer is a crucial step in making sure your estate plan works and works well.
When clients meet with me to review their estate plans, they will often come with specific changes or amendments in mind, but in the course of consultation, we discover additional factors, which had not previously been considered relevant to their estate plan needs.
Remember, if you regularly re-visit and review your estate plan, you greatly increase your chance of having an estate plan that works best for you. Whatever your New Year’s resolutions may be, I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! Let’s ring in 2017!