The truth is without a legally sound Florida estate plan, there is no guarantee that your end-of-life wishes will be followed. When we discuss this with our clients, we let them know that this is true for both financial and health care considerations. Once a solid estate plan is created, however, it may also need to be re-evaluated after significant life events.
While most of us are focusing on the pandemic, and this does qualify as a life event, that is not the only time we need to think about potential changes. If a married couple divorces, for example, and so-called “Grey Divorces” continue to be on the rise, then removing an ex-spouse from your estate planning requires legal attention. Be aware that it is not as easy as crossing out his or her name in red ink.
Similarly, including a new family member in your estate plan due to marriage or the birth of a child or grandchild involves more than just writing their name in the margin. Most wills and trusts can be changed at any time while the estate creator is alive, providing that he or she is mentally competent, but a formally executed plan is required. Your Florida estate planning attorney can help you identify when new changes need to be made to your plan to accomplish your goals.
Other significant life events requiring an estate plan re-evaluation can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- Death of a beneficiary
- Significant illness or death in your primary decision maker
- A life-threatening health diagnosis
- Catastrophic injury
- Large increase or decrease in the estate value
- Moving to a state with different tax laws
- Changes in federal tax law
- Dramatic market changes
- Children or grandchildren reaching the age of majority
While you may only have a last will and testament right now, it may be time to consider adding a trust agreement. Similar to wills, trusts are another common estate planning item. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Trusts can be established in many ways and specify exactly how and when the assets held in trust should pass to beneficiaries. Significant life or market events also mean re-evaluating a trust and may require changing trust beneficiaries or disposing of assets held in trust given a marriage, death, divorce, market fluctuation or other important reason. Any change, however, would require a formal amendment to the existing trust, while outright revoking an existing trust would involve a series of legal considerations.
These are just a handful of considerations to get you thinking about what you need from your estate plan. We know you may have questions right now and are here to answer them. Do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a meeting now, or at any point in the future.