Many people think that there’s no need to update your estate plan documents if none of your beneficiaries or fiduciaries have changed, but that’s exactly the kind of thinking that can lead to disaster. Estate planning documents are based not only on your own wishes, but also on federal and state tax laws. When we draft your documents we take into account a number of different factors, with the goal of providing you the best possible result and an estate plan that we expect will work like a well-oiled machine when the time comes; but it also means that your estate plan needs periodic review, just as your car needs an occasional tune-up.
Our point is perfectly illustrated by an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Is There A Trap Lurking In The Language of Your Will? As this article points out, new tax laws—and your own changing financial situation—could mean that language originally meant to apportion assets in the most efficient manner could now result in leaving your surviving spouse without full control of any assets at all.
The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to have your estate plan documents reviewed every few years. Luckily, depending on the extent of the update, the cost of a simple review and update is much less than the initial cost of creation. But the longer you wait between reviews, the more likely it is that the changes needed to bring your plan up to date will be extensive—and thus more expensive.
Don’t let too much time pass between reviews of your plan. For more on this subject, see “Review Your Living Trust–Older Ones May Need Revision”.