It is generally recommended that your estate plan be reviewed every 3 to 5 years. Additionally, it should be reviewed prior to or following any major life event. Some examples of life events requiring review of your estate plan are as follows:
- Asset Acquisition
- Changes in Wealth
- Changes to the Law
- Change in Appointees
Marriage – Marriage can have a drastic effect on your estate plan. A surviving spouse has certain rights to a deceased spouse’s estate regardless of what the will or trust provides. These include the elective share (i.e. 30% of the deceased spouse’s estate) and rights to a life estate, or 50%, of the deceased spouse’s homestead property. Further, if the will was drafted prior to marriage, the estate can be treated as if there is no will and the spouse could be entitled to the entire estate.
Divorce – After divorce, ex-spouses are treated as if they predeceased you. However, this does not go into effect until after the divorce is final. Death during divorce proceedings has no effect on your estate, and if documents are not changed, could result in the entire estate going to the estranged spouse. If there are minor or incapacitated children, the ex-spouse could also gain control of your assets as guardian of your children.
Births – Children are a wonderful addition to our families, but create unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. Minor children can restrict transfer of homestead property. Further, it must be considered who they would go to in the event of the death of a caregiver. It is also necessary to decide how to protect assets left to them, including from themselves.
Asset Acquisition – Asset acquisition can require a review to ensure the asset is titled properly and that it does not present an unnecessary risk to your other assets. Out of state real property is also a concern as it could trigger an additional probate proceeding in the state of its location unless titled properly.
Relocation – Out of state documents are rarely ideal for Florida residents. If you moved to Florida and still have documents prepared in your state of origin, you should have them reviewed by a Florida Attorney to assess their suitability for Florida Law.
Changes in Wealth – Changes in wealth, whether up or down, can create a shift in the strategy used by your estate planner. An inappropriate plan can be more of a burden than solution.
Changes to the Law – Changes to the law can have a dramatic effect on your estate plan. For instance, recent significant changes to the Federal Estate Tax have rendered many estate planning documents unnecessary and over burdensome.
Change in Appointees – Lastly, it is a good idea to periodically review those you have appointed to various positions to ensure they are still suitable and available.
This list is far from exhaustive. In the event of any significant life event, you should contact an attorney to determine if any changes are suggested or required.