Estate plan reviews are an important part of maintaining a healthy estate plan. While, certainly, anyone can look over one's plan and identify their fiduciaries and beneficiaries, and also pinpoint whether marriage, divorce, death or a new birth has affected any of those people's lives, there is much more that goes into a truly comprehensive estate plan review. Whether it is reviewing non-probate assets or identifying changes in the law, there are many ways that, by going deeper, your estate plan review can give you total confidence that you plan is truly optimized.
Having a team of reliable estate planning professionals can be very helpful to you in many ways. One of the occasions where they can be invaluable to you is when you need to perform a review of your estate plan. You can certainly perform a review on your own, but your estate planning team can help you make sure that your review is a truly complete one so that you don't miss anything.
When you need to review your plan, you may know, without any help, that you need to review your will, living trust, powers of attorney and living will. But did you know that you shouldn't stop there? Many people have many assets held in various forms that involve non-probate transfers on death. This could everything from a financial account with a pay-on-death designation or a piece of real estate with a transfer-on-death deed to your retirement account, life insurance or annuities… basically anything with a death beneficiary attached to it. These assets are also part of your estate plan and making sure to include these assets in your review can help you make certain that everything reflects the current state of affairs in your life and your up-to-date planning goals.
Also, you may possibly already know that, as you review all of these assets, titles and documents, that you should take into account certain life events like marriage, divorce, death or a new birth in the family. But, did you know that there are other life events that may impact your plan and create a possible estate planning need? Illnesses or injuries can sometimes alter your loved ones' needs, which may change your estate planning goals. Perhaps you have a beneficiary who's recently been approved for Medicaid or some other needs-based benefits program. You need to make sure that there are no distributions in your estate plan that, if you died, would go directly to your beneficiary and cause her to lose continued eligibility for those benefits.
As another example, let's say you have a trusted loved one whom you've selected as the successor trustee of your living trust and the executor of your will. Let's also assume, in this example, that this loved one has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The effects of the disease may create a situation where you need to consider naming someone else as the first person in line to handle these duties on your behalf after you pass away.
Finally, there is also the possibility that the laws (either federal law or your state's law) may have changed since you last reviewed your plan. Chances are, you're aren't up-to-date on all of the most recent changes to the laws and what those changes' effects are on estate plan like yours (and, really, how could any busy layperson be expected to be?) Your estate planning team can help you with identifying those laws that may impact people who live where you do.