Your "First" will isn't your "last"


Did you know that you can actually have more than one "Last will and Testament"? Many people believe that having a will written is a lot like the gift you got last year from a dear relative that you didn't want, but couldn't get rid of. You took it out of the packaging, put it in storage, and now you've long since forgotten about it. One day, someone will find it, and sell it at a garage sale...

The truth is, your will should be a "living" document. Your life changes over time. You get a better paying job, have another child, decide to move to a new city or state, etc... Your will, and more importantly, your estate plan in general, should be changing as well. Hence, the title of this post.

Starting Early

Most young people don't pay much attention to their "estate" plan. I would guess that it centers around two "reasons". 1) I'm young and won't die any time soon, or 2) I don't even have an "estate" so why should I care?

I'm too young for an "estate plan"

Having a plan is less about you being dead, and more about assisting those that are still alive. For example, you are married and have your first child. Who would take care of that child in the event of your death? What if you and your wife/the child’s co-parent died in the same tragic accident? Then who takes care of little Johnny or Susie? By expressing your wishes clearly while you are still alive, you can head off any potential family conflict which may occur after your death, and ensure that your children have a safe, secure, and loving home to grow up in. In some cases, this means creating a testamentary trust within your will in order to avoid many of the legal hurdles associated with guardianship.

I don’t even have an “estate” so why should I care?

In short, you may be right, but the only way to find out for sure is to sit down with an estate planing attorney to better understand what you do and don’t have. What you can just update with beneficiaries, or what would fall into probate in the event of your death.

It doesn’t really take much to have an “estate”. You likely have a car (or maybe two), a house you live in, some Jewlery, maybe even a retirement that your employer is contributing to. Any and all of these things contribute to your estate. Not all of them would necessarily find their way into probate, but addressing them now, and setting yourself up for the future can be a good thing.

Updating your plan as your life changes

Life changes. I didn’t have to be the one to tell you that. People get married, divorced, re-married, buy houses, buy investment properties, start businesses, sell businesses, have children, and so much more. Just think about all of the bills you pay on a month to month basis and how many decisions you have to make about the way you conduct your daily life. The decisions you’re making today are not the same decisions you were making 1 year ago, or 5 years ago.

To that end, your estate plan changes as your life changes. As you acquire more property, you have a greater risk of that property being subject to Probate. However, if you plan effectively, you may be able to avoid probate all together. This is a great benefit to your beneficiaries/heirs.

The most common times to review your estate plan include some of the following:

  • Birth of your first child

  • Purchase of a second home/investment property

  • After children make it to/through college

  • Marriage of your children

  • Birth of your first grandchild

  • Retirement

While it’s certainly not a requirement that you update your estate plan at EVERY one of these events, each event creates shockwaves through your value system, thus creating an opportunity to review to whom, and how you would like your assets passed on at your death. At first, it is about ensuring that you’re adequately organized and you are leaving behind a plan for your loved ones to follow. Toward the latter part of the list, it becomes more about considering your legacy, and what you’d like to accomplish with your assets after you pass on.

It’s OK to talk about it

Don’t let “Estate Planning” or fear of death keep you from having a plan. No one ever plans for a fire to start, but that doesn’t stop building owners from having designated fire escapes and placing signage around the building. No one plans to get into a car accident, but that doesn’t stop you from ensuring you buy a safe vehicle and buckle your seatbelt. Estate planning is the same way. Address the issues now, and you can rest easy later.

Feel free to Contact Us with your questions and/or to book an appointment to discuss this article with one of our attorneys.