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Revising Your Old Estate Plan

Posted by Steve Worrall | May 07, 2022

I'm Steve Worrall from Georgia Estate Plan. We're an estate planning and probate law firm serving Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia, and the surrounding areas. I often hear the question about whether and how often you need to review your estate planning documents, so that's what I'm going to discuss with you in this video.

I have an old estate plan.  That's okay, right?   

The short answer to this common question is: 
“Probably not.” 

Estate planning is not a one-and-done task; it's an ongoing process. In general, as your life changes, so should your estate plan. 

It's important to review your estate plan periodically and revise it as needed to make sure that it lines up with your current wishes and continues to serve your estate planning goals.

How often should you review your estate plan? 

You should review your estate plan at regular intervals. Depending on your age, this might mean every 3-5 years (we recommend every 3 years as a bare minimum) or, maybe every milestone birthday. As part of these regular reviews, think about your current estate plan and ask:

● Who benefits? Is everyone you want to benefit accounted for? Are there people named in your estate plan that you no longer want to receive a part of your estate? 
● Are all of your assets and property included in your estate plan? 
● Who is in control? Who is designated as your financial agent? your healthcare agent? the guardian for your minor children?  Are you still comfortable with all of these designations? Do you still trust these people? 

Depending on the answers to these questions, you may want to revise your estate plan. 

In addition to these regular reviews, you should review your estate plan any time there are
 significant life events, such as: 

● A change in your marital status, your family status, or your employment status. 
● A change in your health or the health of your spouse or a family member.
● A change in your financial situation or your long-term financial goals.
● A change of residence, if you move to another state.
● A change in circumstances involving the person named as guardian for your minor children; or 
● A change in circumstances involving the person designated as your agent for financial affairs or healthcare decisions should you become incapacitated. 

Any one of these life events is likely to trigger a need to revise your estate plan.  

So, how do you go about doing that? There are specific procedures and best practices for making changes to each of the components of your estate plan.  What works best for you will depend, in part, on your specific circumstances, but there are a few ground rules that apply across the board: 

Here are some Ground Rules 

1. Treat your original estate planning documents with great care.  
Do not unstaple the originals or remove them from your binder to make copies or to remove or add pages. In our office, we put scanned copies of your documents on a flash drive so you can print them as needed. Never make handwritten changes to any of your estate planning documents. Handwritten changes are likely to be ineffective and, even worse, may void the entire document completely. 

2. Review your beneficiary designations.
This step is often overlooked, but it's important to review your beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement accounts as part of your estate planning review. Make sure that these designations are consistent with the rest of your estate plan and do not cause adverse tax effects or other unintended consequences for you or your beneficiaries.

3.  Don't put it off. 
If you know you need to revise one or more pieces of your estate plan, do it as soon as possible.  Delay opens the door to unexpected events that might frustrate your intentions. 

4.  Reach out to an estate planning attorney.  
There are specific rules that must be followed in drafting and executing an estate plan. Those same rules apply to revising your estate plan, and you have to follow the rules. The legal and practical consequences of making a mistake can cause family disharmony and confusion and can undermine all your careful planning and good intentions. There is too much at stake to risk a do-it-yourself revision. 

𝙋𝙇𝙀𝘼𝙎𝙀: 𝙇𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙛𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙮 𝙚𝙣𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝 𝙩𝙤 𝙙𝙤 𝙞𝙩 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩, 𝙨𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙬𝙤𝙣'𝙩 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙪𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙗𝙖𝙙 𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚.

If changes in your life have made it necessary to change your estate planning documents, please seek the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

If you have questions about reviewing or revising your estate plan, or estate planning generally, we have answers.  Call us at 770-425-6060 to schedule a discovery session with us at no charge.

About the Author

Steve Worrall

As a sandwich generation kid himself (caring for both children and aging parents), Marietta Georgia Estate Planning Elder Law & Probate Attorney Steve (Stephen M.) Worrall KNOWS the struggles you are facing as you raise children, balance the demands of your job, and take care of your aging parent...