Aug 282012

Effective estate planning is not the kind of thing that is done once and then put on a shelf for the rest of your life.  It requires consistent review and alteration as circumstances change.  Here are 4 life changing instances which should cause you to pick up the phone and give your Florida estate planning attorney a call:

  1. Marriage: Anytime someone decides to get married is a good time to consider whether an estate planning change is in order.  This is true for both the individual and their descendants.  Decisions will need to be made regarding how property will be divided in the event of a divorce, who will receive property in an inheritance situation, and what powers of agency (i.e. powers of attorney, designations of health care surrogate) will be granted to the new spouse.  Marriage is one of the most frequent occurrences which can cause someone who has no estate planning to finally get something done.
  2. Divorce: Just as important is the need to review an estate plan once a marriage is terminated.  Again, this applies to both an individual and their descendants.  Florida law provides some limited corrective measures which will work to remove an ex-spouse from a will or trust after a divorce is finalized, but there are still numerous issues that need to be addressed.  Is the ex-spouse still named as the person who can make financial or healthcare decisions in the event of an emergency?  Who will control a minor child’s inheritance in the unfortunate event of the death of their parent or grandparent?  These issues are generally left unaddressed by the Florida Statutes, and, even if they were, are too important to be left up to general legislative “gap fillers.”
  3. Birth: The addition of a member of the family is always a good time to consider updating an estate plan.  The birth of a child will almost always necessitate a plan update, while the birth of a grandchild, niece, or nephew may or may not require an update, depending on the circumstances.  Besides marriage, the birth of a child is one of the primary events which cause unprepared individuals to finally get their estate plans in order.
  4. Death: Whenever a spouse, child, or other loved one passes away, a review of the estate plan is recommended.  Much like in the event of divorce, documents need to be updated and names need to be removed.  Death can cause arguably the most profound alterations to an estate plan, as the entire purpose may be frustrated by the passing of just one individual.

Notice a pattern above?  Marriage and divorce; birth and death.  This just goes to show that determining when to review an estate plan does not necessarily have to be tricky or complicated.  The events which define our lives are also those which will alter our estate planning goals.

If you are interested in reviewing your estate plan, contact a Florida estate planning attorney who can assist you.