For most individuals, it takes a lot of work to muster up the motivation to create an estate plan. After all, a lot of people find it difficult to think about death and their family moving on without them. These feelings are completely normal. Yet, in our experience we have found that North Carolinians feel a sense of relief once their estate plan is in place, but it is important to understand that estate planning isn’t just a one-time event. Instead, it is an ongoing process that should be revisited from time-to-time.
There are a number of events that should spur you into revisiting your estate plan. Amongst them are:
- The death of a loved one
- The birth or adoption of a new child or grandchild
- Divorce, either your own or someone near to you
- The acquisition of new assets
- The breakdown of a relationship
- The mending of a relationship
- A change in how you want your assets dispersed
- The desire to have someone else serve as your child’s guardian in the event of your passing
- A loved one’s change of circumstances
- The desire to engage in charitable giving
- The need to identify someone else to make important health care and financial decisions in the event that you become incapacitated
What’s at stake if you don’t modify your estate plan? A lot. Your assets may funnel down to those whom you never intended to inherit, including those who may squander the wealth you worked hard to build. Neglecting your estate plan may also unintentionally cut out loved ones from inheriting some of your assets. These situations can lead not only to hurt emotions, but also legal battles amongst your friends and family where they fight over what you intended with your estate plan. You don’t want that, and you also don’t want your health and financial well-being left in the hands of an individual whom you no longer trust.
So what can you do? A number of things. To start, you can modify your will by:
- Drafting a codicil: This is an attachment to your will that makes a minor change to existing terms. Changing the maiden name of your daughter to her married name is a good example of a situation where a codicil may be appropriate.
- Utilizing a personal property memorandum: This document is also attached to your will and identifies which individual will inherit a specific piece of personal property. You can draft a new memorandum if you utilized one with your initial will and you want to change who will inherit the property, but you can’t use this document if you intend for the piece of property to be divided amongst multiple individuals.
- Write a new will: This is perhaps the cleanest way to ensure that your intentions are clear and legally enforceable. However, if you choose this route, then you need to make sure that it is 100% clear that your old will has been revoked and is no longer valid. The worst thing that can happen to your estate is to have two wills that seem legally valid, thereby leading to disputes.
You can also make modifications to your trusts, power of attorney, and health care directives. But, like with will modifications, you’ll need to make sure that you’re clear with your intentions.
Estate planning may seem complicated, especially given its ongoing nature. But you don’t have to deal with estate planning issues on your own. Really, you just need to know what you want for the future of your estate and your loved ones. Let legal professionals bring that vision to reality. If you’d like to learn more about how to make that happen, consider giving our law firm a call.