When should you make changes to your estate plan?

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When Should You Make Changes To Your Estate Plan

Although you’ve put in a lot of thought and work to create your initial estate plan, it’s important to realize that these documents should change as major life events occur. Otherwise, your estate assets might end up passing down to someone you never intended to inherit in the first place. Neglecting to update your estate plan can also create confusion, which could lead to litigation over your estate. As a result, your loved ones might end up bickering over your assets, which can devastate relationships.

If you want to prevent that from happening, you should revisit your estate plan regularly. Taking a look at your estate planning documents every year is a good idea, but you should also be aware of some major life events that should trigger you to reassess how your estate planning documents are written.

When should you modify your estate plan?

It depends on your circumstances and what you want to get out of the estate planning process. However, here are some of the most common reasons why people revise their estate plans:

  • Divorce: If you or a loved one gets divorced, you’ll want to take a look at your estate plan to see if you need to remove former spouses. If you don’t, someone like your ex-spouse could end up inheriting a significant portion of your estate.
  • Marriages: A marriage can bring someone new into the family. By adding this person to your estate plan, you can ensure that they’ll be adequately taken care of when the time comes.
  • Births and deaths: The birth of a child or grandchild, and the death of a named beneficiary should prompt you to take a look at your estate plan. If you don’t, you may miss out on providing for a loved one, or portions of your estate could be subjected to intestate succession.
  • Changed relationships: You can add and remove heirs and beneficiaries from your estate plan as you see fit. Therefore, if your relationships change with your loved ones, you might want to have your estate plan reflect that. Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to tell someone if you remove them from your estate plan.
  • Acquisition of new assets: If you acquire a new asset, especially one that has significant value, you might want to address it directly in your estate plan; that way, there’s no confusion about who will inherit it.
  • You’ve recently moved to New Jersey: Although the basics of estate planning are consistent across the country, each state has its own laws that address the requirements that must be met in order for certain estate planning documents to be valid. Therefore, if you’ve recently moved to New Jersey from another state, you should probably take another look at your estate plan to ensure that it remains legally valid.

Don’t leave gaping holes in your estate plan

To be as effective as possible, your estate plan has to be comprehensive. It also has to be accurate and align with your goals. If it doesn’t, your vision of the future may not become reality once you pass away.

As daunting as it may seem to stay on top of an estate plan, the process can be made easier by having a legal professional by your side. So, if you want to ensure that you have the strongest estate plan possible under your set of circumstances, you might want to consider reaching out to a legal team that you trust to handle your affairs.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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