Estate planning is the part of financial planning many people avoid because it forces us to think about the unpleasant reality of death. No-one wants to think about not being around to raise their children or grow old with their partner, but the love that makes these things difficult to consider is why you should consider updating your Estate Plan.
An Estate Plan is more detailed than a Will. Whilst a Will includes instructions for the distribution of your property and instructions for care of your minor children, an Estate Plan focuses on your wishes regarding the distribution of assets and, if done right, can ensure your heirs pay less in taxes, court costs, and other fees.
At certain key moments in your life, your Estate Plan should be reviewed to ensure it is up to date and relevant. Important life stages to do this are:
When you marry
Presumably, you want the best for your spouse, so you need to update your Estate Plan to include your spouse. If you have a pre-nuptial contract, this may influence what your spouse inherits in the event of your death and this information should be in your Estate Plan. State clearly how you want your assets distributed when you nominate beneficiaries. Use this opportunity to update emergency contact details as well
When you have children
When two become three, four or more, your Estate Plan needs to change. You need to nominate guardians to care for your minor children in the event of the death of you and your spouse. You also need to ensure the fair division of your assets and that any inheritance your children may receive is kept safe until they are old enough to access it.
If you divorce
If your marriage ends in divorce, you may want to remove your spouse entirely from your Estate Plan. In this event, you should also review your life insurance policy and Power of Attorney.
If you remarry
If you remarry you may wish to amend beneficiaries. You may want to include stepchildren as beneficiaries.
If a beneficiary dies
If a person named in your Estate Plan pre-deceases you, you will need to adjust your Estate Plan accordingly and reassess the distribution of your assets among the surviving beneficiaries.
If you become seriously ill
It’s not easy to think about anything else when you receive a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, but if your Estate Plan does not already include a directive stating who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated, a living Will and your wishes for your funeral and legacy, now is the time to take these matters into consideration.
If you inherit property and assets
If you receive money or assets from an inheritance, you should adjust your Estate Plan to include the inherited assets. You may wish to create a Trust to prevent conflict after your death.
When laws change
New laws could render your advanced directive invalid or affect inheritance laws so you should review your Estate Plan regularly to ensure it is up to date for your circumstances and legally current. A good Solicitor can keep you informed of any legislation changes that may affect you and your Estate Plan.