When was the last time you looked at your will? If you can't remember, it is time for a review. Having outdated legal documents, such as a will or power of attorney, can wreak havoc on your health and your family's wealth.
Proper estate planning is an activity - it's an ongoing process. Proper planning, then, means ensuring that your documents, your will, your directives, and your beneficiary designations are always updated.
No one said proper estate planning was an easy task. Once signed, sealed and delivered, most of us would rather not reopen and revisit the decisions contained in legal documents focused on our own morbidity and mortality.
This natural reluctance is the focus of a timely MarketWatch article titled "Make your heirs happy: Update your will."
According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 86% of respondents who had wills or other estate documents had not updated them within the past five years. How much happens in five years?! Five years ago it was 2008, the time of the market crash and the destruction of so much wealth and planning in the real estate crash. In addition, the last five years have witnessed five different taxation regimes governing estate and gift taxes.
Aside from financial and tax changes, what about changes closer to home? How many new family members are there and how many have passed? And how much has your own perspective on the world changed?
While there are logical reasons to review your legal documents once created, there is also an emotional reluctance to do so. Accordingly, it is best to make this another one of your scheduled "to do" items on your calendar.
As the MarketWatch article confirms, following through on your regularly scheduled estate plan review and update will make your heirs happy, and ensure that your own decisions are honored.