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By Ryan McNeill, Attorney at Law

That is a great question, and at the risk of sounding like an attorney, it depends. I typically recommend clients review their estate plans every two or three years, though if you have a life change, your estate plans should change immediately. A life change includes such things as marriage, separation, divorce, the birth of children, death of a spouse, and so forth. If the laws related to estate planning (federal or state) are changed, it is also a good idea to discuss the impact of those changes with your estate planning attorney.

When Should I Review My Estate Plans?

I mentioned some obvious life changes above, but there are other conditions that might cause you to consider reviewing your plans.

  1. You inherit money or property. This may or may not change your estate plans, but it is a good idea to review how your property will be distributed on your death to make certain no changes are warranted.
  2. You dispose of property referenced in your estate plans. For example, you may decide to sell the family home and move into a retirement community. You will want to update your documents to reflect that the asset no longer exists. Some retirement communities structure their financial commitment such that some percentage of the investment will be distributed to your heirs on your death. You will need to name these beneficiaries.
  3. A loved one is injured, becomes ill, or is diagnosed with a condition that will require long-term care. You may wish to discuss a special needs trust with your estate planning attorney. This trust can be structured to provide support for your loved one before and/or after your death.
  4. The Executor you named moves, becomes ill, or predeceases you and is unable to handle the duties. You will want to name a new Executor if the current individual is unable to complete their duties.
  5. A family quarrel leads you to believe your plans will be contested after your death. While many squabbles are quickly forgotten, it can be very stressful to worry that your beneficiaries will fight over your property upon your death. One way to avoid the question and ensure your wishes are clearly understood is to conduct a living probate. North Carolina law allows you to effectively go to the probate courts and have your will probated while you are still alive to explain your intent. Anyone wishing to contest the will must do so during this process.

In short, as time progresses and your life changes, keep in mind the need to review and update your estate plans. Schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney today.