Once you create an estate plan, it’s very easy to just file it away and consider everything to be complete for every situation. This feeling is especially common among couples who build their estate plans shortly after they decide they will not have any more children. However, your estate plan should be treated more like your car; your car needs special servicing for each stage in its life, and this is just as true for estate planning. Think of each stage of your life as 25,000 miles on your car, and you should take in your estate plan for servicing at each milestone.
The following lists all the major 25,000 mile markers that you should use as a guideline when servicing your estate plan. However, unlike your car, your life will not have the same set of milestones, so of course, adjust accordingly.
When You are Single
- You are young and broke. You still need an estate plan that includes a medical power of attorney and a living will. There is always the chance that you could be in an accident, and it is best that you designate who makes your medical decisions on your behalf than leaving it up to the “next of kin.”
- You are single and employed. Now is the time to set up a will to designate who will receive your assets if something happens to you.
- You are in a serious relationship, but not married. Without a will designating your significant other as your executor, power of attorney, beneficiary, etc., the state could give all of these powers to your relatives.
When You Have a Spouse
- You are married, separated, or divorced.
- Your health or your spouse’s health is declining.
- Your spouse dies.
- Your assets change dramatically, such as you inherit an unexpected windfall, your business grows from an entrepreneurship to one with several employees, or you go bankrupt.
- You have bought real estate in another state.
When You Have a Family
- You have a new child, either biologically or through adoption.
- Your parent or another relative is dependent upon you for either care, housing, and/or finances.
- Your child becomes a legal adult.
- Your child or another heir/beneficiary dies.
When You Experience Other Life Changes
- Federal or state tax laws have changed.
- You move to a different state.
- Your trustee or designated guardian for your children falls ill, dies, or changes his/her mind.
- You have changed your mind about any of your designations in any of your estate planning documents.
You should try to review your estate plan every year, just how your car needs to be inspected every year. Pick a date you will remember, like your birthday, your anniversary, or even the first date of the month that your car inspection is due. It never hurts to take it out every year and make sure you still feel the same about all the decisions you have made. This is, after all, about everyone you love and everything you own, which is far more important than your car.