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Estate Planning Update: When is the Right Time?

Estate Planning update should be performed when there are changes in one's life or law

Life & Law Changes Necessitating Estate Planning Update

You just left your attorney’s office with a brand new estate plan. You’re done, right? It’s “up-to-date.” Shiny. Professional looking. Sounds incredibly complex when described. You couldn’t be happier. What’s next? Reviewing whether an estate planning update is needed is something you should do once a year if you want to effectively avoid probate and leave a legacy to your desired beneficiaries. What about your shiny new binder containing your estate planning update? Shouldn’t those docs suffice?

An estate plan is a snapshot of you, your family, your assets and the tax laws in place at the time it was created. These all change, which is why an estate planning update is needed when there’s changes in your life, as well as changes in the law. A simple will may have worked when you were single or were a poor newly wed. But, now, you’ve worked your whole life. Your family (and wealth) has grown. You may be divorced – a second or even a third time… You could be retired, or starting a new job. Your family could include not only your lovely kids, but grandchildren. These type of life changes should trigger people into looking into an estate planning update.

In addition to changes in your life, the law is constantly changing. Consider estate taxes, which currently provides that individuals can leave up to $5,340,000 to loved ones before incurring a 40% estate tax. Special trust planning can reduce the impact of estate taxes and ensure that probate is avoided. An estate planning update takes care of the minor or major changes you have in life, as well as the tweaking your plan to maximize the current tax law.

Triggering Points

Estate planning update  to do listNow, that you understand that changes in your life and law may cause you to create an estate planning update, how do you keep it all straight so can know when to perform an estate planning update?  Keep the following list of events in your mind when reviewing whether an estate planning update is necessary.

Married Couple

  1. You marry, divorce, or separate
  2. Your or your spouse’s health declines
  3. Your spouse dies
  4. Value of your assets changes dramatically
  5. Change in business interests
  6. Purchase real estate in another state

Family Changes

  1. Birth or adoption
  2. Marriage or Divorce
  3. Finances decline or appreciate
  4. Parent/relative becomes dependent
  5. Minor becomes an adult
  6. Health Declines
  7. Family Member Dies
  8. Family Member Attitude Toward you Changes


  1. Federal or State Tax law changes
  2. You Plan to move to a different state
  3. You successor trustee, guardian or administrator moves, becomes ill, changes mind
  4. You change your mind

If you think a change is required, don’t write it down yourself. Many important estate planning updates can be done by simple amendments to your will or trust.

About Sean Hanley

Practicing law since 2007, Sean specializes in the ever-changing laws related to real estate, business and estate planning. Embracing technology with a focus on personalized service, he understands the challenges of living and thriving in Silicon Valley. Tapping into his education in economics and business administration, Sean also serves on the non-profit Willow Glen Business Association.

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