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Conducting a periodic review of your estate plan

Posted by RAA on Jul 1, 2015 11:12:00 AM

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With your estate plan successfully implemented, one final but critical step remains: carrying out a periodic review and update. Imagine this: since you implemented your estate plan five years ago, you got divorced and remarried, sold your house and bought a boat to live on, sold your business and invested the money that provides you with enough income so you no longer have to work, and reconciled with your estranged daughter.

This scenario may look more like fantasy than reality, but imagine how these major changes over a five-year period may affect your estate. And that's without considering changes in tax laws, the stock market, the economic climate, or other external factors. After all, if the only constant is change, it isn't unreasonable to speculate that your wishes have changed, the advantages you sought have eroded or vanished, or even that new opportunities now exist that could offer a better value for your estate. A periodic review can give you peace of mind.

When should you conduct a review of your estate plan?

Every year for large estates - Those of you with large estates (over the applicable exclusion amount of $5,430,000 per spouse) should review your plan annually or at certain life events that are suggested in the following paragraphs. Not a year goes by without significant changes in the tax laws. You need to stay on top of these to get the best results.

Every five years for small estates - Those of you with smaller estates (under the applicable exclusion amount) need only review every five years or following changes in your life events. Your estate will not be as affected by economic factors and changes in the tax laws as a larger estate might be. However, your personal situation is bound to change, and reviewing every five years will bring your plan up to date with your current situation.

Upon changes in estate valuation - If the value of your estate has changed more than 20 percent over the last two years, you may need to update your estate plan.

Upon economic changes - You need to review your estate plan if there has been a change in the value of your assets or your income level or requirements, or if you are retiring.

Upon changes in occupation or employment - If you or your spouse changed jobs, you may need to make revisions in your estate plan.

Upon changes in family situations - You need to update your plan if: (1) your (or your children's or grandchildren's) marital status has changed, (2) a child (or grandchild) has been born or adopted, (3) your spouse, child, or grandchild has died, (4) you or a close family member has become ill or incapacitated, or (5) other individuals (e.g., your parents) have become dependent on you. For example, many states have a law revoking all or part of your will if you divorce or remarry.

Upon changes in the estate plan - Of course, if you make a change in part of your estate plan (e.g., create a trust, execute a codicil, etc.), you should review the estate plan as a whole to ensure that it remains cohesive and effective.

Upon major transactions - Be sure to check your plan if you have: (1) received a sizable inheritance, bequest, or similar disposition, (2) made or received substantial gifts, (3) borrowed or lent substantial amounts of money, (4) purchased, leased, or sold material assets or investments, (5) changed residences, (6) changed significant property ownership, or (7) become involved in a lawsuit.

Upon changes in life insurance coverage - Making changes in your insurance coverage may change your estate planning needs or may make changes necessary. Therefore, inform your estate planning advisor if you make any change to life insurance.

Upon death of trustee/executor/guardian - If a designated trustee, executor, or guardian dies or changes his or her mind about serving, you need to revise the parts of your estate plan affected (e.g., the trust agreement and your will) to replace that individual.

Upon other important changes - Use your common sense. Have your feelings about charity changed? Has your son finally become financially responsible? Has your spouse's health been declining? Are your children through college now? All you need to do is give it a little thought from time to time.

ESTATE PLANNING ASSISTANCE

Retirement Advisors of America offers several estate planning services, including a complimentary review of estate planning documents for our clients. Please contact us at 800-321-9123 or request a consultation below if you have any questions or would like to learn more about how we can help you monitor or implement an estate plan.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual investment advice. Actual recommendations are provided by Retirement Advisors of America following consultation and are custom-tailored to each investor’s unique needs and circumstances. The information contained herein is from sources believed to be accurate and reliable. However, Retirement Advisors of America accepts no legal responsibility for any errors or omissions. Investments in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds may increase or decrease in value. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any of the charts and graphs included in this blog are not recommendations for the purchase and sale of any security. 

Topics: Estate Planning