by Richard Chamberlain
Most people already understand that regular maintenance is necessary with almost any item, to avoid major problems and the potential for much higher expense down the road. They have regular medical checkups, meet regularly with their financial advisor to make sure their retirement planning is still on track, bring in their vehicles on a regular basis to have oil changed and tires rotated, and might even have a maintenance contract on their furnace and air conditioner. What some people might be surprised by is the need to maintain their estate plan.
Some people view their estate planning as a one-time event, as something that they do once and never have to think about again. However, it’s important to remember that your estate plan is designed to control your assets and provide for your loved ones, meeting all of your planning goals. Any or all of these things can change, and your estate plan should be changed to keep up. You need your plan to actually work when it’s needed.
You’re probably familiar with the old cliché: “The only constant thing in our lives is change.” The funny thing about clichés is that they usually have a strong basis in fact. Life is constantly changing around us, and as things change in your life, your estate plan must be updated and maintained to keep up with the changes.
Think about your current estate plan and what it’s designed to do. Has anything changed since the time you set it up? Will your plan still work the way you need and want it to? When we are working with our clients to help them keep their estate plans working correctly, we see changes in these issues most frequently:
- Adding/adjusting specific gifts to charities or specific people (like grandchildren, for example);
- Adding or removing primary beneficiaries;
- Adjusting contingent beneficiaries (the people who receive the distribution if the primary beneficiary is not living);
- Changing HOW a beneficiary receives their distribution (for example, as an outright distribution or in a protective trust share);
- Changing who will have control of your assets if you become incapacitated or pass away (either who they will be or the order they will serve in); and
- Changing who will make medical decisions for you if needed away (again, either who they will be or the order they serve in).
In addition to making changes to their existing planning, we also meet with our clients as aspects of their lives change. For example, when a spouse passes away, some adjustments may need to be made in their legal documents. If someone is going into an assisted living facility or a nursing home, there may be some new planning that will need to be put into place. If you have a significant amount of money in your retirement accounts and want to provide additional tax savings and asset protection for your beneficiaries, additional planning tools are available to accomplish that objective.
The whole idea is for you to view your planning as something that needs to be reviewed regularly and adjusted as needed. If you’d like to discuss your planning and how to keep it maintained, please feel free to give us a call at 419-872-7670, or you can email me directly at richard(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)chamberlain-law.net.