When should you update your estate plan???  We have been working on this six part series now for a few months, focusing on one “D” at a time.  This “D”, our fifth “d” in the series, is kind of a play on words.  We admit it.  But it is another birthDay.

We know estate planning isn’t something you do every day.  We also don’t expect our clients to think about their estate planning every day.  But we do want you to think about it at least once a year, on a particular day.  You choose the day.  We just assigned it to your birthday to make it easier to remember.  One year older, so is my estate plan!  Does it still work for me?

First, we want to recap the Six “D”s we share with our clients helping them appreciate when is it a good time to update their estate plan or think about their estate plan.  What are the “Six D’s”? They are: death, divorce, diagnosis, distance, dividends and days.

In Part I, we discussed important steps for you to take with your planning if you or a person named in your plan gets a new medical diagnosis. In Part 2 we shared what happens to your estate planning if you get divorced. In Part 3, we talked about if someone named in your plan to take care of you or your family moves away a distance or someone new moves a closer distance towards you, should you update your plan.  In Part 4, we shared with you what you should do if someone named in your plan has died.

So in this part, Part 5, we are talking about a yearly thoughtful review of your planning.  If you are working with a good financial planner or advisor, they will ask you to regularly review your financial planning with them.  During this meeting, they should also be asking you to think about your legal estate planning: not just do you have a legal estate plan, but have you looked at it lately?  This is one of the reasons we love working with good financial planners, they ask these questions.  But if your planner or advisor doesn’t ask you this question or you are not working with an advisor or planner, you may not think to pull out your legal estate plan, your Will and/or your Trust, and review it.

Here is why you should consider making sure you set a reminder, maybe on your birthday, maybe around April 15th, maybe on an arbitrary date, but every you should do the following checklist:

  1. Can I put my hands on my Last Will & Testament, my Trust, my Power of Attorney for health, my Power of Attorney for finances?
  2. If I quickly review my documents, are the people I have named to help me and family still alive? Still a part of my life? Still have the same values I do around money, health, religion, parenting?
  3. Have my circumstances changed and does that impact my documents?

Where are  your documents?

We see clients who don’t know where their documents are because they haven’t made a safe place for them in their home.  They moved and they are misplaced.  The documents are buried under a pile of other “important documents” on their kitchen counter.  We want you to be able to know exactly where your documents are and we want you to be able to share that information with someone in your plan so they can get our documents also, if needed!

Do the people in your documents remain the same?

We know that people change.  Sometime events happen in our lives and our opinion of a person or their family may change because of their response to the situation.  Maybe people just grow apart.  Are those people named in important roles in your plan.  Should they be changed? You won’t remember they are there if you don’t pull out your documents and think about them.

What happened this year?

You know those New Year’s letters sometimes you get from family or friends, or maybe you write one, where they are sharing all the things that have happened over the previous year.  You need to do this to yourself!  You need to compare your plan against your life changes such as retirement, divorce, marriage of a family member, a move, a change in job, a sale  of a business, the death of a family member.  Life changes equal changes to consider.

So you can see it is important to think about your estate plan once a year.  Thinking it through doesn’t mean making a change, but it does mean that you know where your important estate planning documents can be located, they still reflect what you want and how they help your life.

We encourage you to locate your documents, read them and consider if it is still what you want and do they still fit your life.  If you don’t have a will, a trust, powers of attorney, nomination of guardianship for minor child, then give us a call and we can help you.