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If there’s one common mistake people make when dealing with their last will or estate plan other than putting it off too long, it’s treating the process like a one-time responsibility. Some people will create a basic last will, trust or estate plan and then move on, assuming that they no longer have to worry about their assets and end-of-life planning.
In reality, family, financial and social situations change frequently. Your last will and estate plan need to change and grow with your family, your business and your health. At least every year or two, you should review your last will, trust or estate plan for accuracy. Updating it as necessary can help avoid issues with your estate in the future.
When your family grows by birth or marriage or decreases due to divorce or death, you need to consider updating your will to reflect these changes. Failing to remove a deceased family member from your will, for example, could result in your assets going to that person’s heirs, instead of the individual as you originally intended.
Ideally, the language in your estate plan is clear about who receives what. Many people decide against naming their in-laws to avoid complications in the event of a divorce. Whether you include those related to you by marriage or not, any time someone divorces or marries, you need to review the terms of your estate plan or last will.
One area of estate planning that people often fail to revisit are medical directives and powers of attorney. Perhaps your attitude toward life support has changed following a diagnosis with a progressive disease. Maybe a battle with cancer means you can no longer donate tissues or organs for transplant.
Taking the time to update your medical directives and wishes can help ensure that your family is properly prepared to make the right decisions for you, if that need should arise.
Failing to update your estate planning documents can do a lot more than create unnecessary headaches for your executor or trustee. It could also cause one or more of your family members or heirs to contest your last wishes. A will that lists former spouses and deceased family members could be so outdated as to appear to no longer accurately reflect your wishes, potentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Taking the time to update and renew your last wishes as your family changes helps ensure that your estate plan is accurate and valid in the eyes of the law. It can help protect your estate from unnecessary challenges and other expenses.