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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

5 Reasons to Review Your Estate Plan

Many of our parents completed their estate plans decades ago. The documents may still be valid. However, if they are stale or outdated, you may spend significant money trying to use them down the road.

POSTED ON: August 3, 2021

couple reviewing plan

If your estate plan or your parent’s estate plan hasn’t been reviewed in the last few years — or the last twenty years — it’s time to review your estate plan — sooner, not later. This Forbes  article entitled “5 Reasons To Have Your Parents’ Estate Plan Reviewed,” explains how older documents may no longer work to achieve your wishes or your parents’ wishes.

Rather than fix a messy situation after death, have an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney review your estate plan with you now. Here’s why.

  1. Stale documents are disliked by financial institutions. If a power of attorney is more than eight years old, don’t expect it to be received well by a bank or brokerage house. The financial institution will probably want to get an affidavit from the attorney who originally created the document to attest to its validity. Start with a hunt to find that attorney, and then hope that nothing occurs between the time that you request the affidavit and the time it arrives. For one client, the unexpected death of a parent during this process created all kinds of headaches. A regular review and refresh of estate documents would have prevented this issue.
  2. State laws change. Changes to state laws alter how estates are handled. They may have a positive impact that could benefit your parents and your family, but they could also have a negative effect. If the will or trust hasn’t been reviewed in ten or twenty years, you won’t know what consequences new state laws have on your estate planning. More importantly, if the impact is negative, you won’t be able to take advantage of revising your estate planning to protect your estate.
  3. Lawyers use updated language in estate planning documents. In addition to changes in the law, there are changes to language that may have a big impact on the estate. Many attorneys have changed the language they use for trusts based on the SECURE Act, which went into effect in 2020. If your parent has a retirement account payable to a trust, it’s critical that this language be modified so that it complies with the new law. Lacking these updates, your parent’s estate may be subject to an increase in taxes, fees, or penalties.
  4. Federal estate laws change over time. Recent years have seen major changes to estate law, from the aforementioned SECURE Act to changes in federal exclusions and gift taxes. Is your parent’s estate plan (or yours) in compliance with the new laws? If assets have changed since the last estate plan was done, there may be tax law changes to be incorporated. Are there enough assets available to pay the taxes from the estate or the trusts? If many accounts pass by beneficiary designation, getting beneficiaries to come up with the cash to pay the tax bill may be problematic.
  5. The decedent’s wishes may not be followed if documents aren’t updated. Here’s an example. Bill was George’s only child. After George passed away, Bill went to an estate planning attorney’s office with his father’s will, which hadn’t been updated in 15 years. George had a sister who died years before he passed away, but she was still in George’s will. In recent years, Bill and George had a mutual understanding that Bill would inherit the entire estate upon George’s death. However, the wording in the will said that if the sister passed away, her children would receive her share of the estate. George likely forgot that wording even existed in the will. Bill had to share his inheritance with relatives he and his dad hadn’t communicated with for years. Had George reviewed his will more recently with an attorney, this mishap could have been prevented very easily.

We recommend that our clients review their estate plans with us every three years. This way we can ensure that their estate plans will continue to meet their goals. As an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney, I can work with you to review your estate plan and make any changes that are needed to make sure your plan will do exactly what you want it to. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.