When to Review or Update Your Estate Plan

Jenny Handwerk |

When to Review or Update Your Estate Plan

The only constant in life is that it is constantly changing. Relationships begin and end, children mature and move on, and loved ones die. Because our lives are continually evolving, it only makes sense to update your estate plan regularly to ensure it matches your current status and objectives. Experienced lawyers can assist you analyze your estate plan and determine whether any modifications are required.

The last thing you want is to have to put together a plan after being brought to the hospital with a life-threatening ailment, fretting about whether you have adequately prepared for your family.

Instead, it is far preferable to plan ahead of time. You can gather all your information, conduct a thorough assessment of your financial situation, consider your plans and needs, keep a detailed record of your assets, and decide how you want them managed. At the same time, you are alive or in the event you become incapacitated, as well as how you want them managed and distributed after you die. 

So, in addition to your regular three-year (or more often) review, what circumstances require you to review your estate planning documents? Let's look at a few specific events that probably indicate the need for an appointment with your estate planning expert.

Marriage and Divorce

Family dynamics are constantly changing. When this happens, make sure your estate plan incorporates the changes. For example, if you've newly married, ensure your estate plan includes your new spouse. You should also alter your estate plan if you have been divorced.

A change in family structure

This could include various events, such as births, deaths, weddings, divorces, or even having a child or grandchild attain legal age. Guardians of minor children, for example, are usually named in the parents' wills. Trusts established to fund educational expenses may need to be adjusted as children join the family or complete their studies and begin their jobs. 

A death or divorce may require the removal of someone who was previously included in the estate plan. A person assigned as guardian of minor children may become inappropriate or unable to serve, sometimes due to health issues. All of these issues warrant a review of the relevant documents.

Changes to Beneficiaries

If you decide to change your beneficiaries, you should update all aspects of your estate plan. You must do the same if you want to delete a beneficiary. This will only be performed if you do this step, even if you have scheduled it with the provider, such as your retirement plan provider. It would help if you kept this up to date with them and included it in your estate plan to avoid any discrepancies or confusion. If any of your beneficiaries have died before you, you should update your estate plan to incorporate new beneficiaries and redistribute property among your existing beneficiaries.

A change in the state of residence.

Estate law differs by state. In other words, what worked well in one place may not work well elsewhere. Some states, for example, require a spouse to inherit a certain amount of the estate, while others do not. Some states have inheritance taxes, while others don't. State law can also impact how medical directives, powers of attorney, and living wills are implemented. If you relocate or establish a secondary house in another state, you should check with your estate planning professionals to ensure your plan is appropriate for the area.


Tax Changes

If you have just moved from one state to another, your estate plan should be evaluated to ensure it is by all applicable state laws. In this scenario, you should consult an estate planning attorney in your new state since they will be better versed with local legislation. Even if you have yet to move to a new state, tax rules constantly change. Maintain regular touch with your estate planning counsel to ensure that your estate plan is compliant. 

Sale or purchase of a business

In addition to altering the structure of your assets, purchasing or selling a business may necessitate changes to your estate plan. A life insurance trust, for example, may be required as part of the business's succession plan to ensure a smooth transition in the case of the death of an owner or key employee. The new owner may want to specify what happens to the business or its assets in the event of the owner's death. Specific trust arrangements may be necessary to shield an owner's assets against liabilities incurred by the firm.

A major shift in your financial condition

You may receive an inheritance that significantly increases the size of your estate or experience a setback that reduces your asset base. Any significant change in your financial situation, whether for better or worse, should prompt a review of your intentions for your assets and, as a result, your estate planning. You should assess how your property is divided or apportioned and ensure that it is acceptable in light of your new circumstances. 


Regularly assessing and updating your estate plan is more than just legal compliance; it is a significant act of care for your loved ones and an essential component of your financial wellness. By ensuring your estate plan represents your current intentions and circumstances, you may protect your legacy, reduce potential disputes, and ensure your assets are dispersed as intended.