Chapter 6, When and why do I need to revisit my estate plan?

When and why do I need to revisit my estate plan?

Estate law changes can greatly affect your estate plan. In addition, you should always revisit your estate plan as your personal circumstances change and in times of uncertainty. Sit down with your attorney (or have someone do this for you) to review your estate plan every year to help mitigate problems from arising and keep your plan on track. As you meet with your financial, legal and tax advisors, refer to the documents you created during goal setting.

Step one: Review your personal balance sheet.

Verify that any new assets are listed and that any assets you liquidated are removed from the sheet.

Look at the details of how your assets are held, as well. Have any of your assets changed how they are held, such as funded into a trust or dispersed from a trust?

For any assets with beneficiary designations (life insurance, retirement plans, and corporate benefits), make sure you have updated information about who is named as primary and secondary beneficiaries.

Step two: Amend the list of your current estate planning documents.

Did you revise any documents? Establish new trusts?

Step three: Review your key goals and issues.

Have your goals changed? Has your family faced issues and life events? Have you discovered new passions that will drive your legacy-giving?

Step four: Account for changes around you.

This could involve tax code changes, the birth of a child or grandchild, or marital or other family changes.

Step five: Compare asset titling with your plan.

The way assets are titled may support or undermine your estate plan. Even if assets are properly titled at the time the estate plan is completed, assets acquired after that will need to be reviewed to ensure that they are owned in the proper form and included in the plan. And if these newer assets are generally the ones that are not considered, they may result in an unintended or inefficient transfer.

Not all apparent inconsistencies are actual problems. For example, many estate plans leave property to a spouse in trust, rather than outright, but intentionally name the spouse as the outright beneficiary of retirement plans because there are income tax benefits to doing so. Before making any changes, you should review next steps with your estate planning lawyer.

Some thoughts on next steps

A well-crafted estate plan is a snapshot of your legacy: it shows what you have created over the course of your lifetime and identifies those who will benefit from your generosity. Consider sitting down with professionals to review your situation and gain an understanding of how your assets will transfer if you make no changes to your existing plan.

Your advisor can work with you to bring dedicated specialists to the table, including wealth planners, fiduciary advisors, and trusts specialists, who can advise you and coordinate with other advisors, such as your attorney and CPA. Together, you can discuss where you want your assets to go, potential taxes that may be due, and other possible gaps that need to be closed.

Trust services available through banking and trust affiliates in addition to non-affiliated companies of Wells Fargo Advisors. Any estate plan should be reviewed by an attorney who specializes in estate planning and is licensed to practice law in your state.