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Estate planning doesn't end when you execute your documents

Not many people here in Illinois and elsewhere take the time to create an estate plan, so if you have, you are well ahead of them. However, if you simply put your documents in a secure place and never look at them again, you are doing yourself, and your loved ones, a disservice.

More than likely, your life has changed since you completed your estate plan. The question is whether any of those changes require you to make modifications, changes or adjustments to your plan.

What types of events would necessitate a review?

Even though you should take a look at your estate plan periodically just to make sure it's still relevant, some events necessitate a review whenever they occur:

  • Has a new child or grandchild come into your life? If so, you may want to make provisions for him or her in your estate plan.
  • Have you gotten a divorce? Even though the law may automatically nullify any bequests to your former spouse, you may want to change your documents anyway in order to avoid any potential conflicts in the future.
  • Have you remarried or lost a spouse? More than likely, you will want to make changes to reflect your new marital status, including removing your deceased spouse and making other arrangements.
  • Have you moved to Illinois since you created your estate plan? If so, you may need to make changes since the laws of each state can differ.
  • Are the executor and/or trustee you chose still appropriate and up to the task? If the choices you made before no longer make sense, you can change them.
  • Have you bought or sold assets such as a home since you originally created your estate plan? If so, you may need to make changes to reflect your current financial status.

Your estate planning documents are not the only ones you need to review, however. If you have retirement accounts, life insurance policies or other assets that pass to someone through a beneficiary designation or other operation of law, don't forget to review those as well.

What should you do if you need changes to your estate plan?

Making changes to an estate plan needs to be done properly in order to avoid any confusion when the documents are needed. For example, if you endeavor to change your will without following current estate laws, your surviving family members could end up with conflicting documents. This could easily result in litigation that should not have happened.

Instead, you would probably fare better by discussing your needed changes with an experienced attorney who can help you make the changes you want while making sure your new documentation remains valid.

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Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law