In order to have the most effective estate plan possible, you should periodically take note of what has changed in your life. You should also be aware of what is changing with regards to the law (as best you can). Estate planning is not a one-time event. Instead, it should be viewed as a lifelong dynamic process. A thorough review of your plan should include not only what has changed in your life, but what has changed with your assets, along with a few other questions we ask during the process of review.
Here are 7 key areas for you to examine to help know if your current plan needs to be updated:
1. Family Changes – What has changed in your family since your last plan? Do you still have the same spouse? Did any of your beneficiaries (think your children) go through family changes like marriage, divorce or the birth of a new child? If so, it may be time to update your plan.
2. Your Health – Have things changed with your own health since your last plan? Are the changes significant enough that your plan needs to address or include these changes? Like it or not, age usually impacts our health in one way or another over time. Ignoring the possibility will only make things worse down the road. Do you have long-term care insurance? Has it been fully integrated with your plan?
3. Your Beneficiaries – Beneficiaries are the people who will be on the receiving end of your plan – think adult children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews. How have your beneficiaries changed since you created your current plan? Have they graduated from high school or college? Did anybody get married? Had kids? All of these things can greatly impact a plan. In addition, as the beneficiaries have aged, has their ability to manage their own assets improved or changed? Or do they need additional asset protection? If they have married, how is that relationship currently working?
4. Your Assets – Have you received an inheritance yourself since last drafting your plan? Do you expect to receive an inheritance at some point? Do your IRA assets now make up a much larger percentage of your total assets than before? Do you have any new assets that need to be more fully integrated with your plan? Have you changed jobs? If so, have you updated the benefits related to your former employer and your new employer within your plan?
5. Long-Term Care Needs – It is easy to put off thinking about long-term care, but 70% of people who make it to the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care. The average nursing home cost in the Kansas City area is over $5000 per month. If you’re in your 60’s, it’s time to consider updating your plan now to address long-term care challenges and better protect your assets to help pay for that care.
6. Key Helpers – Are the key helpers for your plan still the best people to help execute your plan – think executors, Powers of Attorney or trustees? Are they getting too old to help with your plan? Has a new job or a cross-country move made them less than ideal for the role you chose? Have your assets evolved to a point where your key people need to be upgraded to a more reliable or professional alternative?
7. Asset Protection Needs – Have you taken full advantage of your ability to pass along asset protection with the assets you pass down? This could mean creating a trust to protect your children from future lawsuits, divorces or other events that could wipe out your inheritance to them. Who needs more asset protection? Maybe you have a child with financial difficulties, a rocky marriage, or even gambling problems. What options could best assist this beneficiary?
We regularly provide a no-cost general review of existing estate plans to identify potential issues like the ones above. This is not an elaborate, time-consuming, written summary in a fancy report binder. It is a personal, verbal walk through of your existing plan with an attorney. We will discuss potential problems or changes around the 7 areas listed above, and if we recommend that you evolve or update your existing plan, we’ll give you an upfront estimate of what it will cost.
If your existing plan still seems to meet your current needs, we will most definitely tell you that as well. We’re not looking to update plans that don’t need it. We are looking to inform clients and provide value as you seek to protect all that you’ve worked so hard for.
If you feel like one or more of the 7 key areas above have changed since your plan was drafted, give us a call at 913-345-2323 to schedule a no-cost review of your plan.