Consider this scenario...Erica and Tyler developed their first estate plan in their late thirties. They had two kids who were 10 and 15 at that point in their lives, and the parent's chief desire wasn't so much to protect their assets as to protect their children in the event either of them met with an untimely death.
So they appointed Erica's sister guardian for the kids and set up Tyler's brother, who was a successful banker, as successor trustee. It seemed the perfect arrangement. They put their estate plan in a safe and rested easy with their choices.
Fast forward forty years...
The kids are grown and each have families of their own. They are successful and happy. Erica and Tyler have lived a long happy life together and feel blessed. Unfortunately, Tyler has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's, and the reality of his mortality is staring both he and his wife in the face.
That's when it occurs to them that they haven't changed their estate plan since it was first written. In fact, they haven't even thought about it.
What should they do? Or, more to the point, what CAN they do?
Can they change their estate plan?
This is one question in the world of estate planning that has an easy answer...
You can ALWAYS change your estate plan. As long as you are competent and capable, you have a legal right to change your estate plan and I always recommend a competent estate planning attorney.
And while the process is slightly different for each, that goes for wills as well as trusts. Both can be changed, and in both cases both SHOULD be evaluated every few years. After all that's why they call it a "living" trust, because it's a "living" document that can changed.
Either a will or a trust can be changed and changes occur by creating amendments.
The simple fact is that your wishes for your estate will change and evolve as your family changes and evolves.
Erica and Tyler's situation is a perfect case in point. Early in their lives, the priority was setting up a protection plan for their children. As they aged and their children became mature and successful adults, that goal was superseded by other needs.
This will likely happen for you too.
Most estate planning professionals recommend that you review your estate plan once very two to three years to make sure it keeps up with the financial and personal changes you go through.
That doesn't necessarily mean you will change it every 2-3 years. A lot of years you won't. But the average estate plan is changed at least three times over the course of its existence. And in some cases estate plans are changed more often than that.
So don't think that just because you create a legal document that outlines what will happen with your assets when you pass away, that the words are written in stone. You can change your estate plan anytime to meet your current needs, and I encourage you to do that.
One common issue that is important to make note of is transferring title to a living trust. Typically after a living trust is created, years go by, new assets are acquired and sometimes individuals forget to contact their attorney to transfer new assets into their trust, or they forget to transfer it themselves.
That mistake is easy to make, so if you have a living trust, consider having it reviewed so you can ensure all your assets are properly managed. Our Torrance estate planning lawyer can assist you with this process.