The Legal Corner by Sam A. Moak: Change is Inevitable, Don’t Forget Your Estate Plan

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The informaion in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law.  Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

I have written before about the importance of reviewing and updating your estate plan, but it’s a topic worth mentioning again—especially in light of the many recent changes to estate tax law. The plain truth is that no matter how perfect your estate plan is when you create it, change is inevitable, and when your life (or the tax law) changes, it’s important that your estate plan change with it.

Another area commonly overlooked is the designated beneficiaries on insurance policies or accounts.  It seems hard to believe, but when major life changing events occur, many people forget to up these designations.  This can lead to unnecessary work at a later date, not to mention hard feelings. 

Reviewing your estate plan every 3-5 years is essential to keeping it up to date and working the way you intended it to work. Luckily, reviewing your estate plan can be quick and easy if you know what you’re looking for. Here are 5 key components you’ll want to review:

Fiduciaries-How have the people in your life moved or changed?

Assets-Are your finances different than they were a few years ago?

Distribution and Beneficiaries-Are there any new members of your family?

Health Care-What changes have you experienced in your health recently?

Legal Updates-Have the laws changed?

Family composition-Has there been a death, divorce or change in the family?

If we’re lucky, our lives are constantly changing—our families evolve, our finances improve or decline, we meet and form strong relationships with knowledgeable friends and professionals. It only makes sense that your estate plan should change too. What seemed best for your family 4 years ago might not be the ideal situation now. By reviewing and updating these 5 components on a regular basis, and touching base with your attorney, you will insure that your estate plan will continue to protect yourself and your family the way you intended it to when you first created it.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C.  He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.