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Just like your life is fluid and subject to change, your estate plan should also be. Having a well-developed estate plan is only as good as how effective it will be, considering your current situation.

Estate planning is not a one-time occurrence, but it should be revised with any changes in your assets, personal relationships, and expectations. If you want your estate plan to protect you and reflect your wishes when it matters, you need to be proactive in keeping it updated.

Life Changes Can Alter the Effectiveness of Your Estate Planning Documents

None of us can predict the changes that may occur in our lives. Life comes with multiple changes, including new family members, divorces and remarriages, deaths, or even changes in philanthropic interests. Each one of these can have an impact on your current estate plan.

Even when your life has been relatively unchanged, the world around you has. What may have been properly conceived many years or even decades ago may have changed with state and federal laws and possibly affect your current estate or trust administration.

Although most experienced California estate planning attorneys will create an estate plan that is relatively broad, important life events will often have an unintended effect on the best conceived estate plan. These can include

  • Childbirth
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Adoption
  • Inheritance
  • A change in your relationship with an executor, trustee, or power of attorney
  • Asset and real property purchases or changes
  • Diagnosis of an illness
  • Death of a beneficiary
  • Death of an executor, trustee, or power of attorney
  • The disability of a family member
  • A serious accident that creates a disability or has incurred significant medical costs

If one of these life events has happened to you, it is important to speak with your estate planning lawyer to understand how it may affect you, so there are no unfortunate surprises later. Even if you haven’t experienced any of these changes, it’s always a good idea to review your documents with your attorney every three to five years.

A Marriage or Divorce

If you have been newly married or divorced, your current estate plan may no longer reflect your wishes.

In California, your spouse will inherit property depending on whether it is considered community or separate property. Your will must be specific if you want to ensure that your spouse inherits all property, including separate property that you came into the marriage with. You may also want to update your documents to designate your new spouse as your power of attorney.

Divorce will end any inheritance rights that your ex-spouse may have had, but it is important to make sure to remove that person as a power of attorney, or as a beneficiary on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or a trust. If you have a joint trust, you will need to revoke it and form another one in your name only.

New Children

New children in the family will require you to update any wills or trusts to reflect your wishes for them. This is particularly true if you and the child’s other parent are not married or have divorced. You will also want to name a legal guardian for any children if something happens to both parents.

Changes in Assets

Your assets will change over time, and any significant change can have an impact on your estate planning documents. You should review and possibly change your estate planning documents, whenever there has been a change in your properties, assets, or net worth.

Wills and Trusts Don’t Expire, But….

While wills and trusts never expire, they still should be updated to reflect your current life circumstances.

Depending on your situation, you may need to change management instructions in a trust or change a trust from a living trust to an irrevocable one. You may want to name a new power of attorney and mirror that change in your trust language.

An experienced California estate planning attorney will understand the tax, financial, and personal implications of your current plan and help you determine if it is still in your best interest or should be changed.

Periodically reviewing your estate plan will allow you to

  • Update documents considering any changes in the laws
  • Ensure that trusts have been funded properly, with all deeds and titles in place
  • Make any redistributions of personal property and charitable giving
  • Change any designations and awards based on changes in your life
  • Adjust any end-of-life decisions if there have been medical advancements
  • Consider any other life changes that may affect you at this or a future stage of your life

Getting the Assistance of a Santa Ana Estate Planning Lawyer

Whether you want to create a new estate plan or make changes to an existing one, getting skilled legal advice is critical. Contact the experienced Orange County estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai at 714.694.1200 to schedule a consultation to discuss your current situation and options.

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