Estate planning isn’t a one-and-done task that you can simply tick off your list forever. It’s crucial to understand that as life evolves, so should your estate plan to ensure it remains relevant and effective. To keep your plan in line with your current circumstances, it’s wise to revisit it with your attorney at least every three years. Moreover, if significant life changes occur within that time, it becomes imperative to assess and possibly amend your plan promptly.
In our previous discussion, we examined the first half of 10 life events that might necessitate changes to your estate plan. Today, we’re ready to uncover the remaining five scenarios that indicate a need to revisit your plan.
06 | You Became Seriously Ill or Injured
A sudden health crisis or accident can render you incapacitated and incapable of handling your own affairs. Thus, it’s crucial to examine your estate plan and ensure it includes both healthcare and financial Powers of Attorney. These legal documents allow you to designate a trusted individual to manage your financial matters, like bill payments and asset management, and to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.
It’s equally vital to incorporate healthcare directives in your plan. These directives specify your healthcare preferences if you’re incapacitated, ranging from dietary choices and religious considerations to boundaries on specific treatments or life-sustaining procedures. By legally stipulating your healthcare preferences, your chosen Power of Attorney can perform their duties with more confidence and make medical decisions that are in line with your desires.
07 | You Moved to Illinois from Another State
Every state has its distinct set of rules pertaining to estate planning. If you’ve relocated to Illinois from another state after drafting your estate plan, it’s imperative to have it reviewed by a local attorney. A plan that doesn’t align with our state’s stipulations for the signing or witnessing of estate documents, or has terms inconsistent with our state’s procedures, could lead to complications or delays when it’s time to enact your plan. It might even necessitate a court evaluation to confirm its legitimacy.
By consulting with a local attorney and updating your plan in accordance with our state’s regulations, you ensure that your estate plan stands firm and can be executed smoothly without any unforeseen issues or ambiguities.
08 | You Got Married
Marriage, while a joyous occasion, also necessitates crucial legal amendments that are often easily overlooked. Post-nuptials, your estate plan needs to mirror your updated marital status. However, this is where the complexities of estate planning come into play. While some jurisdictions automatically designate your spouse as a co-owner of certain assets, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a smooth property transition upon your death.
In contrasts, other jurisdictions, including Illinois, don’t automatically update ownership status. This implies that marital property doesn’t directly pass on to the surviving spouse. While the surviving spouse will ultimately receive the property, they must navigate through the lengthy and public process of probate to claim control over it.
Thus, ensuring the seamless transition of your assets to your spouse in the event of your death or incapacitation requires that you update your beneficiaries and make suitable arrangements for jointly-held assets. Furthermore, it may be worth considering establishing safeguards to provide financial and emotional security to your spouse in the event of your untimely departure.
09 | You Got a Divorce
The dissolution of a marriage undeniably marks a turning point in your life that calls for immediate modification of your estate plan. As you navigate this new chapter, you’ll find it’s usually crucial to completely revamp your existing estate plan. This substantial revision involves formulating a new Will and Trust, updating beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts, and reworking asset allocation to align with your new status and evolving relationships.
Furthermore, if your family includes children from the dissolved marriage, another important consideration comes into play. It may be necessary to reassess guardianship arrangements and accordingly adjust the financial provisions to suit their needs.
10 | The Law Changed
The landscape of tax laws is ever evolving, and changes to estate tax exemptions can considerably affect your estate plan. In light of any major shifts in federal or state estate tax legislation, it becomes imperative to review your plan with an estate planning attorney. This strategic review will aim to mitigate tax liabilities and secure your wealth for the benefit of your loved ones.
While you may not have been impacted by federal or state estate taxes previously, it’s important to note that there are anticipated changes in the federal estate tax law set for 2026. Therefore, it’s prudent to assess now how this upcoming shift might influence your family’s estate tax filing position. Potential estate taxes could saddle your family with financial burdens ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, with thoughtful estate planning, these taxing liabilities can be skillfully circumvented.
By Your Side Through All of Life’s Changes
Your estate plan lays the groundwork to safeguard both your family and your finances, providing security not just for the present, but also for the future. However, estate planning should not be viewed as a singular undertaking. Instead, it should dynamically adapt and develop in concert with your life’s shifting circumstances.
My goal is to accompany you throughout life’s changes, ensuring your estate plan remains current and efficient regardless of life’s unpredictability. As part of this commitment, I provide a no-cost review of your estate plan every three years to all my clients. Furthermore, I encourage you to contact me at any point within this interval, should you have any concerns or questions about life transitions or occurrences that may have an impact on your plan.
This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.