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September 1, 2015

When to Change Your Estate Plan

Many may believe that estate planning is something you only have to do once, at an advanced age.  However, the truth is that if you will likely have to update your estate plan over time, especially if you plan your estate as early as you should.  We have discussed how even young people or people with fewer assets should plan their estates accordingly, but even if you are planning an estate at a later age, there are still lifestyle changes and statute changes that can affect how your possessions are distributed.  In this article, we will discuss some of the most necessary times to change your will.

Marriage or divorce.  When you marry into another family, you may want to add provisions for your in-laws accordingly.  While the fact that you are married would entitle your spouse to the vast majority of your estate even if you did not have a will, it is important for you to take into account any other members of your new family, like stepchildren or other newer family members that you have come to care for deeply.  In the inverse of a marriage situation, where you may want to add more family members to your will, you may want to remove ex-family members when you have a divorce. 

Death of a loved one.  If you have made a bequest to someone in your will and that person has passed, it is prudent to change your will to reflect that the gift go to someone else.  In the event that the item could potentially be rather sentimental to other heirs, it is important that your intentions for the gift be known to your heirs so as to avoid any confusion or disagreements over the possession of the item. 

Change in financial circumstances.  Whether your finances change for the better or worse, you will want to ensure that your will and the accompanying tools you’ve utilized are still your best options.  Smaller estates may be easier to settle without the probate process, but if you planned to have a small estate and later found that your finances have greatly increased, you will have to use different estate planning tools to ensure that your possessions are properly dealt with. 

Change of heart.  As time passes, people change, and so do your relationships with those people.  If there is any reason that you may have to change provisions of your will as they apply to anything or anyone, be sure to speak with your attorney about your change of heart; he/she can help you change your will accordingly.

Change of statutory landscape.  Over time, laws may change, especially in an area such as trusts and estates.  While they do not change often, when they do, the effects are usually significant.  In South Carolina, the entire probate code was rewritten 1987; if you have not had your estate plan reviewed since before that time, you should see an attorney immediately to determine whether you need to make any changes.

Making, changing, and maintaining an estate plan is not easy.  You do not have to do any of those things alone.  If you are in South Carolina and recognize that you may need estate planning help, call the Anderson Law Firm in Greenville.  Our estate planning attorneys are able and willing to help you determine what actions to take to make sure that your estate plan is comprised of the best tools for your situation.