Most people put off estate planning. Let's face it, you have to pay a lawyer and you have to consider death and a bunch of other unpleasant scenarios. Personally, I'd rather have my nails pulled.
Most often people finally do their estate planning and draft a Will when they have to which is often after they have children, get married, buy a house, have a significant business or their spouse has badgered them into it.
Remember, the most important step in making sure your affairs are in order is to have the basic estate documents in place. They are a Will, a Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and Health Care Directive. In addition, you need to review your assets and how they are titled. You should review your insurance and ensure you understand where and how your property will go. You should consider estate taxes and make sure they are minimized.
Estate planning arranges your affairs so your property will be transferred smoothly and properly when the time comes. It ensures you are in control and protects your spouse and your children. It maximizes your assets and minimizes the cost.
So, how often should your estate plan be reviewed?
If nothing sudden or significant has happened such as the birth of a child, divorce, marriage, death of a family member, change in jobs, or change in your balance sheet or assets, then a good benchmark for reviewing your estate plan is every 5 years.
By “reviewing your estate plan,” I mean to sit down with your attorney and walk through your goals and objectives in light of your current situation. Analyze whether your current documents achieve those goals. Determine whether your property goes where intended and your insurance is in place to protect your loved ones. Ensure the titles on your assets and the beneficiaries are optimized. You may find that you need to change some things like updating the executor, the guardians, changing the order of the trustees, changing titles to assets, naming beneficiaries, implementing tax planning to minimize estate taxes, or taking steps to avoid probate.
In my view, it is a good idea to pay your lawyer for an hour of their time every five years to make sure things are in order. But hey, you can pay me now or pay me later.