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How Often Should You Update Your Estate Plan?

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Clients often ask me how often they should update their estate plans. Both the passage of time and changing circumstances determine the right time to update. The birth of a couple’s first child is often a trigger for preparing the first estate plan. It is extremely important to designate a guardian for that baby, and any future children if the parents were to both passes away. It is very common to designate a grandparent as the guardian because many times the grandparents are young enough to be up for the challenge of raising children. But, 20 years later, that may no longer be the case, and that estate plan needs to be updated. That’s an example of the passage of time determining when an update is necessary.

Changes in circumstances can create the need to update an estate plan more quickly, however. For example, if the couple discussed above were to go through a divorce, then a new estate plan is in order.  Or, if a person designated as a guardian or a backup to the guardian were to pass away, then a new designation of guardian needs to be done because you don’t want a probate court to decide who will care for your minor children. You also need to be aware of life changes to those key persons named in your estate plan. If the guardian for your children goes through a divorce, then that guardian may no longer be able to emotionally care for your children, nor have the time to do it. The reduction of income of a guardian may also create a hardship on the guardian in caring for your children. You should monitor the named persons in your estate for other life changes, such as health issues or suspected substance abuse.

Another reason to update an estate plan is a move to another state. For the most part, an estate plan created in one state will remain valid if you move to a different state. If there are provisions in the estate plan that conflict with the new state’s laws, then generally the state court will not enforce the conflicting provisions but will honor the rest of the estate plan. But, if you plan to stay in the new state for quite a while, it’s probably worth getting your estate plan updated to conform with the new state’s laws.

Update Your Estate Plan

Having an old estate plan is better than having no estate plan at all, plus it gives the attorney creating the new estate plan a structure to work from. When I have an old estate plan to start with, changes can often be made very quickly, easily, and inexpensively.  A healthy attitude to take is that although an estate plan has no expiration date, you should set yourself a reminder to look at it yourself at least once every 5 years. If you don’t have any concerns, then you won’t need to have it updated. But, if you do need some changes, they likely will be easy and inexpensive to make. If you would like more information about when to update your estate plan, visit our website at or call for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. At WM Law, we are here to help!