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Is it a good idea to update your estate plan?

Many people who create an estate plan consider it a one-and-done task. 

But as lives change - as children are born, as new marriages happen, as loved ones pass away - it often becomes necessary to update estate planning documents.

When a loved one dies

After a loved one's passing, family members must deal with the estate. This is in addition to going through the stages of grieving, making burial and funeral arrangements, and sorting through the belongings of the loved one's home.

This process can be even more taxing if the estate plan is not updated.

The importance of estate planning

Few people would desire to add to a loved one's grief when death descends, yet those left behind are too often perplexed and frustrated. They must try to discover how the deceased would arrange her or his final affairs while barely able to function through the pain of bereavement.

Adult children whose parents planned for the disposition of their estate bypass much of this burden through specific instructions in a parent's estate plan. They avoid the chaos left behind and, particularly in the case of high-value estates, bitter feelings as relatives contest who has the right to Mom's valuable wedding ring or Dad's business interests.

A good estate plan will settle all financial affairs in clear terms that will often avoid some family members' desires for litigation to determine their rights.

What are the risks of delaying estate planning?

Many people put off estate planning. And when they finally create an estate plan, many never think to update it.

But this can easily cause problems down the road. Even celebrities fail to plan, and staggering amounts of money go to the United States government, rather than to children or spouses. Estate determinations in these cases can drag on for years. 

With an estate plan in place, people generally review changes every year or so, depending on needs, such as changes in tax laws or a new birth in the family. Spring is an excellent time to consider getting one's financial house in order.

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