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Pitfalls of Estate Planning 2: Not Updating


An all too common Estate Plan faux pas is not updating.  I love the clients who come in for an update and they pull out their old documents and their now 45 year old child is still going to the neighbor or sibling if something happens to my clients.  We all chuckle over it and get right down to updating, since that plan hasn't been planning correctly for the last 25+ years.  But, at least they came in to finally update it!  

More often I have family coming in to see us after the death of a loved one and we take a look at the documents.  The whole family is sitting around a table with certain preconceived notions regarding what they get or how they get it, usually based off of some other experience they have had. Unfortunately, their loved one hadn't looked at their Estate Planning documents in the last 20, 30, 40 or 50 years.  What that means is that some key provisions could be missing to allow us to do what the family wants us to do.  Or they didn't even have those documents way back then.  The assets may not be titled correctly.  Or the money is split between people the deceased hadn't talked to in 30 years.  And no, just because we don't think it's fair, we can't just delete that beneficiary. If the deceased put them in his/her Will or Trust, then we don't have the authority to change it.  If they wanted to change it, the client should have gotten an update while they were living and competent to do so.  

The other important aspect of updating is that the laws are ever changing.  I know we don't like to think about it, but the state and federal branches do pass laws, they change laws, they interpret laws and that effects not only how we draft documents but also what we draft.  Some of those changes are big and others are small, but we as estate planners want to make sure we are utilizing any current language to your benefit, or avoiding certain new law pitfalls that didn't exist at the original time of your planning. 

Our Firm prides itself on giving individuals tailored estate plans.  The template version of doing things doesn't work when you have different family situations, different asset situations and different feelings on distribution.  So we don't plug people into generic one size fits all templates.  But making sure something continues to fit you requires constant upkeep.  The same way you keep in touch with your dentist or doctor, the same way you visit the gym to maintain a certain weight, your estate plan needs attention too.  We recommend people pull out their documents at least once every 3-5 years.  Make sure it still fits.  In today's fast moving world, life changes happen more frequently than we think they do. Be it more children, new grandchildren, death, selling of property, property gain, new friends, loss of old friends, or moving to a different area.  All these things may impact how you have established your life time planning and/or your after death planning.  

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