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How often do adults need to update their estate plans?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Wills & Estate Planning |

The average adult could likely come up with dozens of excuses for why they want to delay estate planning. Most people find the planning for incapacity and death to be an unpleasant process even though doing so protects them and the people they love. Quite a few people never get around to creating estate plans and leave their families in difficult situations when they die.

Surviving family members may fight over the distribution of property and may fail to provide appropriate support to the most vulnerable people in the family unit. Those who create estate plans often assume that their loved ones may benefit from that decision by deriving protection from their documents. They probably also expect that their estate planning paperwork can prevent conflict after they die.

Unfortunately, outdated documents could eventually lead to probate challenges and other disputes among beneficiaries after someone’s passing. People typically need to look over estate planning paperwork and make regular updates to their documents to better ensure that they retain their authority.

Why outdated documents are an issue

The longer it has been since someone drafted a will or other estate planning paperwork, the more likely it is that their documents contain outdated instructions. Perhaps they named someone who has since exited the family or died as the personal representative of their estate or a beneficiary.

Maybe they provide instructions for the distribution of assets that they have since sold to others. Even the failure to include every family member by name could raise questions about the accuracy of documents. Family members sometimes challenge or contest estate planning paperwork by alleging that it is out of date and inaccurate. Details such as improper beneficiary designations or outdated bequests could serve as evidence in a probate contest against a will. Regularly reviewing and making corrections to estate planning documents can prevent unnecessary probate litigation after someone’s death.

When are updates appropriate?

The average person may need to look over estate planning paperwork every two to five years for the rest of their life. They may also need to make a point of updating documents after significant changes to their circumstances. Changes in personal holdings, updates to family circumstances and even a shift in someone’s health could necessitate estate planning updates. When someone’s financial circumstances, family relationships or support needs change, their estate planning paperwork may need to change as well. Adults who frequently review and update their estate planning documents may feel more confident about having necessary protection in an emergency or after their death.

Occasionally reviewing and updating estate plans can help people feel more confident about the validity of their documents. Testators who understand the limitations of their estate plans can provide better protection for themselves and their loved ones.