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Top Estate Planning Mistake #8: Not Updating Your Estate Plan

Top Estate Planning Mistake #8: Not Updating Your Estate Plan

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Going to have an attorney create an estate plan for you and your family can be hard.  There are psychological barriers, financial barriers, time constraint barriers, and leg work barriers.  Looking at all the things that make it difficult to go from “I really need to get an estate plan in place” to “Look at my shiny new estate plan” I understand why I talk to so many responsible people who have never found the time or motivation to come and talk to me about their estate planning needs.  That being said, I will likely never understand who folks who have succeeded in the original process, fail in the upkeep tasks to ensure that the plan they have created and paid for does what they need it to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I have a conversation where I relay that I am an estate planning attorney, and the other person tells me, “I am so glad I had my estate plan done, it’s such a relief knowing that those things are taken care of”.  I hear those words and I am instantly overtaken with conflict.  On the one hand, I want to tell them that they have done a great job and that they are way ahead of the curve by having an estate plan.  On the other hand, I feel compelled to ask when they had their plan done.  Of course I end up making both statements, and my new acquaintance replies, “Oh, it was back in 2005”, and I silently lose my mind a little.

Here is the problem, our entire world has changed since 2005.  To give a couple of examples as to how our world is different, take the following examples:  2005 was two years before the release of the first smartphone; it was a year and a half before twitter existed; it was two to three years before most Americans had ever heard the words “too big to fail”; it was three years before the first government bailout of distressed assets; gas prices in Missouri were $1.94 per gallon…and we were livid that it was so expensive; it was the year that Batman began and the Sith got their revenge.  If our world has changed that much, how is it possible that your possessions, the people and things you care about, and your loved ones haven’t?  Remember, that’s if your plan is from 2005, if the last time you talked to your estate planning attorney was in the 20th century stop reading this blog and call me right now!

The law, including estate planning law, is subject to many criticisms.  None of the criticisms the law receives have ever been, “they just use too much common sense and it’s too fluid to allow for the changes real people go through over time”.  Let me give you two examples:

  1. Let’s say you owned a 1958 Bel Air. It was your prized possession when you drafted your estate plan, and because you and your daughter spent hours restoring it you specifically left it to her in your will.  Then several years after you executed your will you both decided you had gotten all of the enjoyment you were going to get out of the Bel Air, and you traded it in on a 1968 Camaro.  You used the proceeds from the sale of the Bel Air to purchase and restore the Camaro and again, it is a labor of love you share with your daughter.  Sometime later you pass away and your will is admitted to probate.  Do you think the probate court will:  (a) see that you wanted your daughter to enjoy the project car that she restored with you and give it to her, (b) look and see that the proceeds of the Bel Air were used to create the Camaro from the ground up and therefore the Camaro should be treated the same as the Bel Air, or (c) look for a Bel Air, see there is no Bel Air, and treat the Camaro as though you had never made any specific instruction as to its ownership.  The answer is most likely C, folks.  Yes, maybe your loved ones can get together like reasonable human beings and get to the answer you wanted, but maybe they can’t.  Besides, didn’t you get your estate plan done to avoid “maybe” in the first place?


  1. Let’s say you have a life insurance policy that names your spouse as the beneficiary. After years of loving each other, your spouse passes away.  Life continues to happen for you and you never get around to changing the beneficiary on the life insurance policy.  Then after many more years you pass away.  Your children then try to receive the benefit from your policy, but guess what, they aren’t the named beneficiaries.   Didn’t you spend years paying on a life insurance policy to make sure the funds from that policy would be there when your loved ones needed them?

There is an easy way to make sure that your plan does what you want it to do, and it’s included in every estate planning package created by WM Law.  All you have to do is talk to your planner every year or so to make sure your circumstances haven’t changed, your plan hasn’t changed, and THE LAW hasn’t changed!

If you have a plan that was created years ago, call us for a review.  If you don’t have a plan, CALL US AND GET A PLAN!!!