If you have an estate plan in place already, you are ahead of the curve in the United States. Surveys indicate that despite understanding how important estate planning is, over half of all Americans do not have a plan. While you deserve to pat yourself on the back for putting together your initial estate plan, do not make the mistake of thinking that you can forget about the issue of estate planning from here on out. On the contrary, your initial estate plan needs to be reviewed and revised throughout the course of your lifetime to ensure that it remains relevant. The Lincolnville estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. stress the importance of reviewing your estate plan because an out of date estate plan is often just as problematic as the complete absence of a plan when it comes time to probate your estate.
Why Is Estate Planning Important?
Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place without regard to age, marital status, or net worth. Even a simple Last Will and Testament can accomplish a number of important objectives, including:
- Preventing intestate succession laws from dictating the distribution of your assets. If you die intestate, or without a Will, the state intestate succession laws will govern the distribution of your estate assets. Although you may not yet own monetarily valuable assets, you may own family heirlooms or assets with sentimental value. If so, you undoubtedly do not want the State of Illinois to decide who receives those items from your estate.
- Nominating a Guardian for minor children. For the parent of a minor child, deciding who will take over the legal care of your child if you are gone is a crucial decision. Many people are unaware that your Will offers the only official opportunity to nominate a Guardian for your child.
- Deciding who oversees the probate of your estate. Another important decision you make when executing a Will is who to appoint as your Executor. Your Executor oversees the administration of your estate during probate. If you die intestate, any competent adult can volunteer to fulfill the position or the court will appoint someone who never even knew you.
Reviewing and Revising Your Estate Plan
A common estate planning mistake is to create an estate plan when young and then not revisit that plan and make necessary changes as you age. Unfortunately, this is a mistake that often leads to litigation when an estate is probated because that initial estate plan now appears ambiguous and full of omissions. As you move through the various stages of your life, reviewing and revising your estate plan should occur as a matter of routine. Important life events should also prompt immediate revisions of your plan. For example:
- Marriage or divorce — if you get married, you will want to add your spouse as a beneficiary throughout your plan. If you get divorced, don’t forget to remove your spouse as a beneficiary or your (now) ex-spouse will likely benefit from your death!
- Death, incapacity or retirement of a fiduciary – throughout your estate plan there will be several opportunities to appoint people to fiduciary roles, such as Executor, Trustee, or Guardian. If a fiduciary dies, becomes incapacitated, or retires, you will need to appoint someone to take his or her place in your plan.
- Retirement – your own retirement will likely cause significant changes to your financial portfolio which should, in turn, trigger the need to make changes to your estate plan.
- Move to another state – because much of the laws relating to wills, trusts, and estates are made at the state level, a move to another state should prompt consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in that state to see if any changes need to be made to your plan.
- Major change in assets – your existing plan should contemplate the purchase and sale of assets; however, if your financial picture changes significantly, you may need to make a corresponding adjustment in your estate plan.
Contact Lincolnville Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the need to review and revise your existing estate plan, contact the experienced Lincolnville estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.