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Major Life Changes and Updating Your Estate Plan

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a crystal ball that allowed you to look into the future of your own life so that you could see and understand every major event that would occur. This would give you the ability to plan and prepare for those events and would also give you the confidence in knowing that you were ready to handle each event as it came along. The problem is, life doesn’t give you a crystal ball so you can see into your future. Rather, to prepare for your future, the best thing you can do is to create a customized estate plan that anticipates and provides protections for you and your family from the major events that could happen with the hope that they don’t happen.

Our team of Idaho estate planning lawyers have worked with clients for over 70 years in preparing customized estate plans to protect them and their families. Additionally, we have worked with our clients to make sure that their estate plan is updated on a regular basis. Our team includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our estate planning attorneys has received the highest reviews possible from current clients, other attorneys that they work with, and the judges that they appear before in court.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand the importance of keeping your estate plan updated. To help you understand why this is important here are three things that you should consider.

Your Estate Planning is a Plan not a Requirement

The first thing that you need to understand is that your estate plan is just a plan and is not a concrete requirement for your life or the lives of your family or loved ones. In other words, the goal of estate planning is to allow you to consider your life as it exists at the time you create your estate plan. Your estate plan also allows you to consider some of the major events that could occur during the rest of your life. Estate planning is designed to protect you and your family from those major events.

However, because your estate plan is not concrete, it can be changed at any time. We often explain to clients that the basic documents that are included in an estate plan are a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care. Once these documents are signed, the only ones that have any authority immediately are the powers of attorney. When a person dies, the powers of attorney come to an end and are no longer valid to provide any legal authority. Rather, the last will and testament is the document that then becomes valid and provides legal authority after a person dies.

The reason for explaining this is to impress upon your mind the fact that so long as you are alive your estate planning can be changed at any time. The only key is that you have what lawyers call legal capacity, which means you have an understanding of what it is you are doing. With legal capacity you are able to change your estate plan any time you want and as often as you want.

Everyone Will go Through Changes in Life

Understanding that you have the ability to change your estate plan any time is important because every person goes through changes in life. By understanding that life is not static and that changes will occur, this helps our clients understand that they have the ability to make changes to their estate plan when necessary.

Your estate planning documents are your personal property. You are the only individual who has the authority to decide who will see and read your estate planning documents. Additionally, you are the only person who can decide if and when changes need to be made to your estate planning documents. Our goal is to assist our clients to help them understand when changes might be necessary, and then helping our clients make those changes. However, because your estate plan is your property, we cannot dictate to you when changes should be made. Only you can make this decision.

The Major Life Changes to Think About

After explaining this to our clients many of them then ask us when they should make a change to their estate plan. We explain to them that anytime they go through a major life change they should read through their estate planning documents and make a decision about whether any changes are needed. It usually becomes evident pretty quickly whether a change needs to be made. Major life changes include a person being born, a person dying, a person getting married, a person getting a divorce, a person moving away, or just the passage of a long period of time.

Let’s use marriage as an example to illustrate how major life changes may make a change to your estate planning necessary. Suppose that you created an estate plan when you were married to your first spouse. If you divorce your first spouse, you likely made some changes to your estate planning to remove your first spouse from your estate plan. In other words, after divorcing someone they likely will not be listed as a beneficiary who will receive a portion of your property, money, and assets after you die. Now suppose that you marry your second spouse. Based on this marriage it’s likely that you will want to add the name of your new spouse to your estate planning documents. You may want your new spouse to be the person who holds your power of attorney. Additionally, you may want your new spouse to be your personal representative and a beneficiary of your estate. If you do not change your estate plan and add the name of your new spouse then they will not receive the items that you may want them to receive after you die.

While no one has a crystal ball, it’s fairly clear that everyone will go through major life changes during their lifetime. Because of this, we assist our clients in making changes to their estate plan when needed. By helping in this way, our clients have peace of mind in knowing that their estate plan is updated and will meet their current needs. If you or a loved one has gone through a major life change, we are confident that we can help you too.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or need a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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