Updating Your Estate Plan Is Essential

Oct 13, 2014

Today we live in a more health conscious society than in years past. We know that drinking lots of water is essential. Eating a diet with a good balance of fruits and vegetables is essential. Working out and keeping our bodies moving is essential. You know what else is essential? Updating Your Estate Plan.

Even if you have an estate plan, if your documents are out of date you can still run into trouble down the road. Actor Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain star and most famously known for his role as the Joker; almost disinherited his daughter, Matilda Rose, by failing to update his estate plan prior to his unexpected and tragic death.  As a result, his assets went to his father and sister, which led to family disputes, until Heath’s family finally promised to take care of Matilda Rose. Headlines, like these, remind us of how important is it is update your estate plan as big life events occur, such divorce, marriage or the birth of a baby.   Our lives change from day-to-day and through the years.  It is important that our estate planning documents change with us and continue to focus on what we want to accomplish at the time. If you are new to the estate planning process, you should know that updating your estate plan is absolutely essential if you want to get the most out of it. Once you speak to an estate planning lawyer, decide on the type of plan you want to create, and then go about the process of creating a plan, you might be tempted to take a break and congratulate yourself on your hard work. Although you should feel proud that you have accomplished something that most people never get around to doing, you also need to be prepared to act in the future in order to make sure your plan is as good as it can be. To help you understand why updating your estate plan is so important, let’s take a look at some important points to remember:

Updating your estate plan is important because the law can change.

If you create an estate plan with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer, your lawyer should keep you up to date of any significant and important changes in the law that could affect your plan.

For example, if you created your plan many years ago, there have been significant changes to how the federal government taxes the estates left behind by deceased people. In the past, the estate tax threshold was much lower than it is today, and many people created rather complicated tools to help minimize or avoid their estates having to pay the tax. Today, most of the estate plans people create don’t need to utilize these complicated estate tax avoidance methods, and can get by on much simpler, and more streamlined, tools.

Updating your estate plan is essential because your life can change.

Whether you are young, old, or anywhere in between, it is very likely that your life will change at some point. Whether it’s the death of a spouse or loved one, a change in marital circumstances, moving to a new state or new country, or a change in your financial fortunes, you must be ready to adapt to the changes when they come. Updating your estate plan after experiencing such a change, or prior to a change you know will take place, is essential.


Your estate plan needs to reflect your current situation, but it also needs to look ahead to what the future might hold. Should your circumstances change, you have to be able to change your plan so that it accurately reflects your new circumstances.

Don’t let your family’s story be a cautionary tale in someone’s blog or lunchroom chatter. Don’t be like the Joker. Be like Batman- be brave, be vigilant. Protect those you love and those that love you.

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