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Keeping Your Estate Planning Current

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In the classic movie The Ten Commandments, with Charlton Heston portraying Moses, Yul Brynner eventually becomes the pharaoh of Egypt. In a classic scene where he is making a decision about what would happen to Moses, he used the classic phrase, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” I like that phrase because it is not only a great line, but I also believe that it is applicable to estate planning. What you have written in your estate planning documents is exactly what is going to be done. Our goal as the premier estate planning team in Idaho is to make sure that our clients intents and wishes are carried out. We work to create a well-thought-out written estate plan that will accomplish exactly what our clients want.

For more than 70 years, the Idaho estate planning team of attorneys at the Racine law office have assisted clients in the creation of customized written estate planning documents. These include not only a last will and testament, but also a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care. This may also include a variety of trusts or other estate planning documents that are necessary to carry out exactly what our clients want to accomplish. Whatever the estate planning needs of our clients are, we work with our clients to create the customized documents necessary to carry out their wishes and goals.

Once a written estate plan is in place, our clients have accomplished nearly everything they need to be prepared for both themselves and for their loved ones. However, because life does not stay the same, and changes are happening all the time, your estate planning may need to be updated so that it continues to meet your current needs. The purpose of this article is to describe the reasons that you would want to keep your estate-planning current.

Your Circumstances may Have Changed

The first, and perhaps most important reason that you may need to update or change your estate planning is because your own personal circumstances may have changed. For instance, you may have had a family member be born, or you may have had a family member die. Additionally, you may now be married, or you may now single. The key is, if your circumstances have changed from what they were when you created your written estate planning in the first place, it will likely be necessary to update your estate planning so that it meets your current circumstances.

The good news is that so long as you have capacity, which means that you fully understand what it is you are doing, you have the ability to change your estate planning documents anytime you want, and as often as you want. We usually recommend making changes or updates to your estate planning documents if you go through any major life change. The major life changes that we consider important  would include the birth of a loved one, the death of a loved one, the marriage or divorce of either yourself or a loved one, someone moving away, or just the passage of a long period of time.

So how can you tell if you need to make a change to your estate-planning if a major life change occurred? This is actually really easy. We recommend that our clients simply pull their estate planning documents out, and read through them. If a major life change has occurred in your life, the changes that you need to make to your estate-planning will be obvious to you. For example, let’s say that you were married and you completed your last will and testament which named your wife as your personal representative and also stated that she would receive your estate if you passed away before her. Now let’s suppose that you divorced your wife and are currently single. If you read through your last will and testament it will be obvious to you that you no longer want your previous wife to be named or listed in your last will and testament. This is how you will know that you need to make a change to your documents.

Other’s Circumstances may Have Changed

The second reason that you may make changes to your estate planning are when other’s circumstances may have changed. The major life changes listed above could also be applicable to anyone who you list or name in your estate planning documents. This could include the individuals that you listed as your personal representative. It could also include an individual you may have named as a trustee in a trust. Finally, it may also be applicable to anybody you listed as a beneficiary who would receive a portion of the money, property, or assets from your estate.

Again, an example here might help. Suppose that you named your brother as the personal representative of your estate after you pass away. Now let’s suppose that your brother was involved in an accident and that he is currently disabled. Because of this, you may recognize that your brother is no longer capable of serving as your personal representative. If this is true, you may want to make a change to your estate planning documents to remove your brother and to name someone else instead.

Your Plan Should Reflect What You Want

The final reason for keeping your estate-planning updated and current is that you may simply have changed your mind about what it is you want to do. An additional example here will illustrate this point. Suppose that when you were a young parent you completed your estate planning documents including your last will and testament. In your last will and testament suppose you left a distribution of a portion of your money, property, or other assets of your estate to your daughter who was 12 years old at the time. Now suppose that 20 years have gone by and your daughter is 32 years old. Additionally, suppose that your daughter struggles with alcoholism, or drug abuse. In this instance, you may determine that you no longer want to leave a portion of your estate to your daughter because you believe that if she receives money from you she would only use it to hurt herself through her addictions.

This is just one example. Additional examples could easily be that your relationships with the individuals you listed in your previous estate planning documents no longer exist. You may no longer have a relationship with the people that you listed and you do not want them to receive part of your estate now. Again, by simply reading through your estate planning documents the changes that you need to make should be obvious to you. The most important part of your estate planning is that it should accomplish exactly what it is you currently want. By making changes and updates to your estate plan you can be assured that your current wishes and desires will be carried out.

We have helped numerous clients in both the creation of and the updating of their estate planning documents. We are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Business Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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