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  • Gabriel B. Lenhart

When to Update Your Estate Plan

Most people put a lot of time and thought into creating their estate plan in order to save their family from the complexities and administrative costs, which will be incurred in the event of their incapacity or death. Typically, provisions will be made to account for their family’s needs: who will care for their minor children if they pass away; who will manage their finances if they become incapacitated; who will have the power to make health care decisions for them if they cannot in the future.

All too frequently people assume that once these decisions have been made and the documents have been drafted that they can just file their estate plan away in a drawer or safe deposit box to be found in the case of their incapacity or death. While the steps taken to account for their family’s needs are commendable, changing circumstances and laws may thwart even the most comprehensive estate plan if it’s not updated. An estate plan that was proper a few years or even months ago may not be so today, and a periodic review of your estate plan may save your family from the grueling tasks of obtaining a conservatorship, paying administrative and legal fees for probate administration, and running the gauntlet of paperwork necessary for establishing a legal guardian for a child.

It is of the utmost importance to review your estate plan every 3-5 years in order to ensure that they are still effective, that they still reflect your current wishes, and that any changes in circumstances have been accounted for. There are certain events that should automatically trigger you to update your estate plan: marriage; divorce; change in financial status; change in assets; birth or death of a beneficiary or fiduciary; disability or illness; change in residence; and change in estate tax laws. Each one of these life events could seriously affect your estate plan and overlooking these changes could lead to a loved one not being provided for, even if that was against your best intentions.

If you have already created your estate plan, my hat is off to you as you have already been proactive about providing for your family and making sure your wishes are followed even after you pass. However, it is still important to remember that your estate plan is a living document which needs to be updated periodically and whenever changes in circumstances occur.

Please note that this article is a general summary of law and omits many important details, footnotes, and caveats. It is no substitute for legal advice from a lawyer based on your particular circumstances.

For more information or to speak with a lawyer, please call us at (530) 268-5485, visit our website,, or send us an email at

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