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Assessing the health of your estate plan

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September is Healthy Aging Month and while your thoughts may turn to leafy green foods and more exercise, it's also the perfect time to assess the health of your aging Estate Plan. You may have seen to it that your Last Will & Testament was put in place.... twenty years ago! Maybe you took the time to designate a Healthcare Power of Attorney or someone to look after your finances....decades ago!

Not only do circumstances change, but life's situations can shift leaving your plan feeling old and outdated. Did you know that certain law changes can impact your documents as well? Don't let your estate plan gather dust like that long forgotten treadmill in the basement. Give your estate plan a checkup! There’s a very good chance that the estate plan you created 10 or 20 years ago will NOT be sufficient today to accomplish your goals or objectives. 

The following is a list of common situations and “triggers” that may indicate the need to update your estate plan.  If you or someone you love has experienced any of these life changes, or it’s been at least three years since you've have had your Will, Trust or other planning documents reviewed, it’s time to bring them in for a complimentary review. Just like regular checkups at the doctor's office can ensure your catch potential health problems before they become dire, regular checkups with our owner and attorney, April Grunden, can ensure you catch inaccuracies and out-dated elements before it's too late.

Have you experienced ...

1) a Marriage or Remarriage

While a spouse does often inherit by default, there are a lot of other considerations to make to an estate plan when a martial status changes.  This is especially true in the case of subsequent marriages and blended family situations.

2) a Divorce

If you don’t want your ex-spouse to receive your property upon your death, it’s important to meet with your lawyer to ensure sure the ex’s name is removed as a beneficiary of accounts and policies, taken out of the will, removed from trusts, etc.

3) the death of a spouse  

When one spouse passes away, the other will need to update his or her estate plan to reflect that change.  Not only will your beneficiaries likely change, but you may also have an inheritance from your spouse that now needs to be incorporated into your own estate plan.  And, if you and your spouse used a joint trust as part of the plan, its instructions now need to be carried out correctly and promptly.

4) the birth of a child or grandchild

The birth or adoption of a new family member means that aspects of your estate plan may need to be changed to accommodate new needs.  For example, you may want to create a college fund or set up a trust.  Consideration may also need to be made regarding the distribution of assets to children or grandchildren. Creating a trust may also be necessary to hold funds for the children/grandchildren until an age when the Grantor feels the beneficiary is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of having an inheritance.

5) a change to your financial situation

Whether you’ve received some sort of windfall, received a significant increase in pay, or have lost your job, it is important to review your estate plan to determine if it provides for these changes.  If not, you’ll need your lawyer to adjust it appropriately.

6) a new real estate buy

A home often represents an individual’s biggest life investment, and you want to be sure to cover it in your estate plan.  From how to pay it off to whom you want to leave it to and plenty in between, an estate planning lawyer will help incorporate this big change into your existing plan. Also consider timeshares, vacation homes, family farms, rental properties and other real estate in your planning.

7) the launch of a new business

Starting or ending a business warrants a trip to the estate planning lawyer’s office for plenty of reasons, not the least of which is that it will certainly have some sort of effect on your financial situation.  Succession planning is another big aspect of running a business, as you’ll want to clearly outline what is to happen to the business if you die or become otherwise incapacitated.  A little legal planning now will save big headaches later.

There are, of course, other events that should likely trigger a call or visit to your lawyer, but these are some of the biggest.  Fortunately, with the major estate planning done, these types of updates will typically be fairly easy while benefiting you and your heirs greatly.

If you would like to discuss your family's particular situation, schedule a complimentary consultation. At this meeting, we will review your current family situation, as well as any documents your parents have in place. If they have an existing estate plan, we’ll check to see if it is strong enough to protect you and let you know, according to the documents, what you can expect as your life progresses.

If it appears that you have everything in order and do not require any further planning, we’ll send you on your way with the peace of mind knowing you are well prepared for your future.

However, if you don’t have a plan or you are concerned with how your plan may need to be updated to reflect your needs, we’ll guide you in determining your best options based on your goals, then craft an estate plan that reflects your wishes and provides for their long-term care needs.

Want to learn more? Interested in scheduling a consultation? Email info@grundenlaw.com or call us at 260-969-1177!

April Grunden