After executing your documents and successfully implementing the plan, you are done — well for a while. Remember, estate planning deals creates a flexible framework to help navigate life’s uncertainties.
As life changes, you need to review and potentially rethink your planning. Below are a few examples of what may prompt you to do so:
1. Birth of a family member or another family member that is relevant to your estate plan.
2. Death of a family member or another family member that is relevant to your estate plan.
3. Marriage of a family member or another family member that is relevant to your estate plan.
4. Divorce of a family member or another family member that is relevant to your estate plan.
5. Changing jobs.
6. Moving to a different state.
7. A material change in finances.
8. An adverse change in your family relationships, including those relevant to your plan, and especially relating to your designated fiduciaries.
9. A significant change in health.
10. Your children become adults.
11. The state laws changes.
12. The tax laws change.
13. Family dynamics have changed.
14. You acquire assets in other states.
15. You own interests in small closely held businesses.
16. Your assets have grown and/or become complex, such as through inheritance, work or luck.
17. Your family members become disabled or suffer from addiction.
18. You change your mind which usually happens because of one of the above reasons.
All of the above that are applicable to your parents and children should also trigger a review.
Admittedly, there are a lot of things that should trigger a review. What’s important is that you are working with a firm that will follow up with you as part of its process. You shouldn’t be expected to recognize the above 18 items on your own. You’re not trained for it, and life is too fast, noisy and distracting for you to learn it. Why should you anyway? There’s professionals that only do this type of work, so work with them.
At your first meeting, you should ask your attorney about their process after completing the work. It will catch them off guard as they probably don’t get asked that question often. Do they have a system? How often do they contact you? Quarterly, semi-annually, annually? Is it via email, phone or text? Do they let you know of changes so you can prepare and respond accordingly? Do they post helpful content on their social media?
The bottom line is that your planning is a living thing. It requires nurturing and attention periodically but regularly. Make sure you and your professionals making up your “Trifecta of Representation” are on the same page here too.
One final important point: you need to work with someone you trust. Frequently, people bring their preconceived notions of attorneys or their bad experiences into the relationship with a new attorney. Just like dating, it’s baggage that can be a real problem and barrier to relationship development and establishing trust and respect. It’s important that you engage with someone who you trust because they are going to make recommendations to you and your family and you shouldn’t start from a place of suspicion or distrust.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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