Estate planning is a nearly universal need that only a minority of people address. The majority of adults do not have an estate plan in place to control their property, protect their dependents and manage their care as they age. Even those who do have documents often make the mistake of neglecting to update them after their creation.
Outdated documents are at risk of challenges in probate court. Family members could contest them for being inaccurate or no longer complying with state probate law. People generally need to continue updating estate planning documents throughout their lives after drafting them.
How frequently should people review and update their estate planning paperwork?
At least twice a decade
Most financial advisors recommend that people review their estate planning paperwork every three to five years. Going over testamentary documents and other paperwork at least twice a decade will help ensure that someone remains compliant with state law.
They will also be in a better situation to recognize when their documents are no longer accurate. Perhaps they have added new beneficiaries to their families or changed relationships with those who previously played an important role in the estate plan. A regular review could help people make occasional changes to include the right beneficiaries and resources in their estate planning documents.
Any time situations change drastically
Even if someone routinely reviews their estate plan every three years, there are situations that may warrant the immediate review of existing paperwork. These situations include:
- a death in the family
- the birth of a new child
- adoption or foster placement
- property acquisition
- sale of major assets
If a beneficiary or someone appointed to a role of responsibility in the estate plan dies or no longer has a positive relationship with the testator, that would be a reason to revise documents. So would a major change in someone’s financial circumstances.
Finally, health issues can also prompt estate planning updates. Someone diagnosed with a terminal illness or reacting to a loved one’s health challenges may need to make significant changes to their prior estate plan. The process of keeping an estate plan up to date is almost as important as putting one together in the first place.
Recognizing when it is time to make revisions to estate planning paperwork may help give people better peace of mind and better ensure that their documents remain legally enforceable when the need to use them arises.