How to protect your estate plan in changing times

Joe wanted an evaluation of an estate plan he had done many years ago. It turned out the executor Joe named had passed away, and the alternate had moved across the world. By designating new people, Joe was confident that the plan would be carried out properly.

Joe’s story is one example of how an old estate plan can have negative effects. When agents or executors are no longer able to serve, or move away, it may be appropriate to designate new people.

Divorce is another. Although the divorced spouse is deemed to have predeceased for the purpose of interpreting a will, the same is not true for contractual agreements and investments (such as life insurance and retirement accounts) where the former spouse is a named beneficiary. Without a timely review of an estate plan and beneficiary designations, it may still be possible for the divorced spouse to receive some or all of the estate.

Changes in law and technology also have sparked a need to review old plans. For example, many older plans do not account for digital assets, online banking, social media, or cloud storage of documents and photographs. They also may not take into account current tax laws, which can have deleterious consequences.

Finally, estate planning is an opportunity to define goals and build toward them. When your goals change, the plan should reflect the new objectives.

Therefore, estate planning is not a one-time transaction. When circumstances change, the estate plan should be updated accordingly, and not left to deteriorate into something that is irrelevant or contrary to your needs and objectives.