What do I need to do if I already have an estate plan?

Even if you already have an estate plan, it's still important to review it periodically to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected. By reviewing your estate plan every 1-3 years, you can make sure that you and your family's needs are appropriately met. 

Updating Your Estate Planning Documents

If some time has passed since you created your estate plan, you may want to consider reviewing it (either with or without an estate planning lawyer) to see if there's anything you want to update.

If circumstances have changed since you initially created your estate plan, then you may need to hire an estate planning lawyer to help you make updates. Here are some common situations that prompt people to update their estate planning documents:

  1. The death or birth of family members.
  2. A substantial increase or decrease in wealth.
  3. Changes in the law.

Partial Amendment or Restatement? 

If the changes to your Revocable Living Trust or Will are minor, you may only need a partial amendment or codicil, respectively.

However, if the changes are substantial, it's often best for the lawyer to "restate" or re-write the entirety of your trust or Will. This is often because your existing trust may contain provisions that depend on one another and making too many changes may detrimentally affect how your trust operates.

Indeed, with the rise of word processing and document assembly programs, restating documents can often be much cheaper than trying to hobble together changes to an existing document.

In simple situations, estate planning documents rarely need a complete overhaul. However, it's still a good idea to review your estate planning documents periodically, and at the very least, when there are major events such as the birth or death of a family member. In fact, you might consider setting a date every year where you review your financial situation, as well as your estate planning documents to ensure that both are performing properly.

Be Prepared

Kudos to you if you've already established an estate plan. You're among the small minority of responsible adults! You (and more importantly, your family) are likely in a much better position than other people you know. Interestingly, after a client finishes signing their estate planning documents, they often sigh and tell me how relieved they are. When I ask how it feels to be done, they reply, "I honestly can't believe I waited so long. I feel a sense of relief about concerns that I didn't even know I had!"