There is a really good article in the Des Moines Register today written by Frank Mokosak discussing how a periodic review of your estate plan will alert you to any necessary changes. It seems to come in waves in my legal practice but recently I have had a number of clients need to change their Wills and estate planning documents for one reason or another.

According to the article, events leading to a review include:

  • Change in your marital status
  • Addition to your family through birth, adoption or marriage (stepchildren)
  • Death or incapacitation of spouse or family member
  • Spouse, parents or other family member has become dependent on you
  • Substantial change in the value of your assets or your plans for their use
  • Receipt of a sizable inheritance or gift
  • Change in income level or income requirements
  • Retirement
  • You have plans to change any part of your estate plan

The article also discusses some specific provisions to review including, but not limited to:

  • Who are your family members and friends? How do you feel about them?
  • Do you have a valid will? Does it reflect your current goals and wishes? Does your choice of an executor or a guardian for your minor children remain appropriate?
  • In the event you become incapacitated, do you have a living will, durable power of attorney for health care or Do Not Resuscitate order to manage medical decisions?
  • What property do you own and how is it titled?
  • Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations for your retirement plans and life insurance policies?
  • Do you have any trusts, living or testamentary?
  • Do you plan to make any lifetime gifts to family members or friends?
  • Do you have plans for charitable gifts or bequests?
  • If you own or co-own a business, have provisions been made to transfer your business interest? Is there a buy-sell agreement with adequate funding? Would lifetime gifts be appropriate?
  • Do you own sufficient life insurance to meet your needs at death?
  • Have you considered the impact of gift, estate, generation-skipping and income taxes, both federal and state?

We have all seen circumstances where the unexpected has occurred. It’s just a super idea to take a look at your Will and estate planning documents periodically, preferably annually. If changes need to be made, don’t sit on it. Usually people think most about their estate documents around the holidays when family is together. But for some reason it’s human nature to put off the completion of documents even after engaging a lawyer to draft them. And get comfortable with the idea of discussing your estate. It is understandable that people do not want to talk about issues surrounding death but as one person I met recently pointed out in a somewhat joking, but truthful way, “Ain’t none of us getting out of this alive.”