Why an old estate plan can be costly

Estate planning is not intended to be done once and then forgotten. Instead, it should be revisited every few years.

One of the most stark reasons is that people come and go. Agents and executors named a long time ago may no longer be able to serve, or it may not be in the individual’s best interest to have them do so. For example, if an agent or executor named years ago were too frail, someone else should be designated. At the same time, people move away. If an agent is located across the country, will he be as available as when he was in town? And in the case of a divorce, the plans and beneficiaries should be revisited.

Also, the legal environment changes over time. Estate tax thresholds move up and down. Healthcare options and documentation requirements change, such as when HIPAA took effect. And modern estate plan documents address a much broader range of topics compared to those drawn years ago.

Finally, technology changes have opened new frontiers in estate planning. Today, most people have a digital estate. Business records, financial statements, and work product may be stored in a cloud. Photos, websites, and social media may similarly be posted online. Ownership and access to these types of accounts was not an issue until recently, and would not be addressed in an older estate plan.

Each of these is a potential gap in an older estate plan. If left unaddressed, one or more of them may prove costly. If it has been a long time since the plan was created, or if major life events have occurred in the intervening years, it is time to revisit the estate plan and make any necessary revisions.