One Size Does Not Fit All
Would you walk into a clothing store, go to any rack, grab a suit, take it home and expect it to fit perfectly…forever? When you ‘grab’ a ‘legal’ document from a shelf, from a website, out of a book, or via the internet–that is exactly what you are doing – expecting that document to ‘fit’ your unique circumstances perfectly and to fit now and in the future.
Estate planning documents, like Wills and Trusts, are NOT one size fits all arrangements. They are ‘tangible’ – you ‘own them.’ Good estate planning documents are the product of significant thought, crafted to suit your particular situation and prepared by an experienced lawyer with a strong knowledge base in the legal subject. And, your estate planning documents have a shelf-life and should be ‘refreshed’ or updated — changes in the law and in your personal family situation can affect how the documents operate in the future.
Whether the document is a Will, a Trust, a beneficiary designation for a life insurance policy or a beneficiary designation form for a retirement account, the document should not (and in the case of ‘irrevocable’ Trusts, need not) remain static; the next change in law or life event demands a review to determine if a modification or update is appropriate. One significant life change that definitely has an impact on the way previously signed documents will operate in the future is marriage or entering into a civil union or other partnership – the couple undoubtedly will want, and need, to prepare new estate planning documents and review all beneficiary designations for life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Moreover, a pre-marital agreement, post-marital agreement, co-habitation agreement or other similar beneficiary or property agreement may be warranted or appropriate. Completely unintended financial consequences can result if the legal issues surrounding the new relationship are not addressed early.
There are many life events that ‘trigger’ a need to review your estate planning documents and in some cases, modify or completely revise your documents. Changes in the tax and probate laws occur frequently and suggest that estate planning documents be reviewed periodically so that their utility or “potency” is not compromised. Some of the more common personal, family and financial developments that may make estate planning documents outdated and dictate that a review is in order include:
- divorce or separation of family members
- death in the family
- birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- acquisition of real estate
- sale of real estate
- material change in health of a family member
- new business ventures
- marked increase or decrease in the value of assets
- sale of a business
- addition or deletion of a business partner
- family conflicts
- relocation, both domestic and international – temporary or permanent
- incapacity or special needs of a family member
- inheritance or receipt of a gift
- windfall of substantial value, e.g. lottery winnings, lawsuit award or settlement
This is not by any means an exhaustive list. But if any of the above life events have taken place recently, or some other life or financial event has occurred, it is time to review your estate planning documents.
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This post has been brought to you by The Law Office of Barbara Ann Dalvano. This information is provided for educational purposes only and to generate ideas, provoke thought and facilitate conversation. It is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Each person’s situation is different and this information should not be relied upon and cannot be relied upon as legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Please refer to the entire Disclaimer on this site.
Barbara Ann Dalvano, Esq.
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