Why You Must Keep Your Estate Planning Up to Date
If you are lucky, there will be several decades between when you create your estate planning documents and when your loved ones use them. But estate plans should not be created and forgotten. They need to be reviewed from time to time and adjusted as the circumstances of your life and the laws that may affect your estate plan change.
Generally, we recommend reviewing your estate planning documents at least once every five years. The huge exception to this general rule occurs when you experience (or when you anticipate experiencing) a major life change, or when there is a major change in the law that could affect your estate plan.
A “major life change” is a life event that affects you and/or the ones that you love and care about. Examples include marriage, divorce, separation, a child attaining the age of majority, the birth of a grandchild (especially if the grandchild has special needs), drastic changes in finances, a chronic illness, the incapacity of a loved one, the death of a loved one, and changing the state of your residence. A “major change in the law” is a little trickier to identify.
For example, there have been recent changes in the law significantly increasing the amount that can pass free of federal and New York State estate taxes at the time of your death. Prior to this major change, many married couples created “two-share” estate plans with a formula-funded bypass trust or credit shelter trust. Should you fail to update your estate plan prior to your death, this type of arrangement may have serious unintended consequences with respect to taxation and/or your surviving spouse’s access to assets subsequent to your death.
Updating your estate plan is not necessarily the end of the story. If your beneficiaries (i.e. your partner or your children) do not have their own estate planning documents up to date, your best-laid plans may be undermined by unexpected and unintended problems.
An estate plan is one of the most important gifts that we give to the loved ones that we leave behind. As such, it is important that we ensure that your estate plan continues to serve the needs of those we love as life changes and as the laws change. When is the last time you looked at your estate plan? We invite you to schedule a complimentary half hour consultation to review your estate plan.
Elder Law Practice
Our Elder Law practice includes advising individuals and families living in Albany, Troy, Schenectady and Saratoga (the Capital District Region) in the protection and transfer of wealth, including multi-generational planning, business succession and philanthropic gifting arrangements. Our services include preparation of simple and complex Wills and Trusts (such as life insurance trusts, asset protection trusts, supplemental needs trusts, living trusts, charitable trusts, private foundations and trusts created under Wills, and Gift plans).
In addition, we help our clients create Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and Living Wills. For persons who lack the mental capacity to create those documents, we bring petitions before the Court for the appointment of a Guardian. Also, we offer fiduciary consulting services to individuals and business entities throughout the Capital Region with respect to agency and trust and estate administration matters.
We know that a “good” estate plan includes planning for the expenses of long-term care. We assist our clients with identifying resources that will be available to help pay for that care, including self-funding, insurance, and governmental assistance programs, such as Medicaid. Then, we help our clients create a plan to help ensure that the resource will be available to them in the future should they require long term care.