It is important to plan for death, whether it be an untimely demise or just the inevitable passing of time. However, planning is never fully complete without regular review. Life brings about changes, and sometimes those changes are unexpected. No matter how complete an estate plan there will be things that pop up that nobody thought about or planned for.
The saying that “life is stranger than fiction” holds true here. Sometimes things happen that are just plain weird. For this reason, I recommend that everyone review their estate plan periodically. If you don’t have an estate plan then maybe it’s time to take that step and get it done. And if you had a will drafted 10 years ago…go take a look at it! Dust off the old estate plan and give it a read. Maybe you’ve forgotten something, or perhaps you named a dear friend as your personal representative, but over the years that friend has moved or you’ve grown apart. What was a great plan 10+ years ago could be a disaster waiting to happen now! People move, grow apart, have fights, and pass away. Make sure something didn’t happen that throws a wrench into your planning.
The expense of dealing with poorly drafted or out of date estate plans can very quickly surpass the cost of updating an estate plan. You can save money in the long run, and keep your family and friends from the hassle of dealing with added work and stress. An easy and inexpensive way to update a will is through a codicil, which is an amendment to a will that can be executed without having to create an entirely new estate plan.
So how often should you review? That’s a great question, glad you asked! I would advise those with estate plans to look over their documents every 5 years, or anytime you’ve experience a major life change (such as divorce). This isn’t so often that it becomes a major burden on your time, but it isn’t so long a time as to forget every detail of your plan. Think of your regular review of your estate plan as an oil change for your will. With regular review you’ll hopefully be able to take it into the shop before it breaks down during rush hour.