5 Life Events That Will Affect Your Estate Plan

Posted by Charlotte Davis | Aug 31, 2023

Too many people treat an estate plan as something they cross off their to-do list, and then never think about again.  But the reality is life events can drastically affect your estate plan.  If you want your plan to work in the way you intended, you should always review your estate plan with a lawyer after a major life event.  Below are significant life events that can affect your estate plan.

You Adopt or Have a Child

Adding a child to the family is a happy event, but you should always make sure your child is cared for in your will in case something happened to you.  Your estate plan should designate both temporary and permanent guardians for that child, and include provisions to care for your child's financial future.  If it doesn't, Tennessee law will kick in and a judge will determine the child's guardian (who may or may not be who you want raising your child), and your child will inherit as if you had no will (which may or may not be how you want your estate divided). You may also want to indicate your wishes for your child's education, religion, and values so that your child's legal guardian will know how you would want your child raised if something happened to you.

A Child Becomes an Adult

A will concerning a minor child can become nearly obsolete when the child becomes an adult.  He or she will no longer need a guardian, and often a will or trust is drafted so that a child does not inherit directly, but the money sits in the care of a trustee, and the child is a beneficiary.  It may be that you want your child to inherit directly when he or she reaches the age of majority.  It may be that you want your adult child to become executor of your will.  And if you have multiple children, it may be that you want your adult child to become the guardian for your minor children.  It's important to review your estate plan when your child reaches the age of majority to make sure that your plan still accurately reflects your wishes.

Additionally, there are documents that you may want your adult child to sign to make sure your child is protected in the event something happens to him or her – a durable power of attorney will allow a designee to make health care decisions or handle his or her finances, should he or she become incapacitated.

Your Marital Status Changes

Both marriage and divorce are life-changing events that can significantly impact your personal finances. Several of the estate planning decisions you made while single or married may no longer serve your purposes and intentions; so, you will want to review your estate plan to ensure that it still describes your wishes if something were to happen to you. 

A marriage/divorce is also a good opportunity to set up a living trust, which allows you to keeping control of your property during your lifetime while providing for children and other beneficiaries upon your death. Because your assets are likely to be retitled when you get married or divorced, you can use the opportunity to put them in your living trust.

An Actor in Your Will Dies

The death of a loved one is always a sad event, but don't let your grief distract you from other ways the death may affect you and your estate plan.  If the deceased loved one was named the executor of your estate, the guardian of your children, or a beneficiary in your will, then you will need to name a new person to fill their role.  If you don't, and if you don't have alternates named in your will, then those critical decisions will be made by a court.  Updating your estate plan will allow you to make those decisions about your finances, your children, and your legacy.

Your Assets or Liabilities Change

If you buy a vacation home, change brokerage firms, occur debt, or make any other big financial moves that affect your assets and liabilities, you need to review your estate plan.  These types of financial changes can affect your asset distributions or beneficiary designations in your will or trust.  Plus, you will need to update your asset inventory so the executor of your estate knows what you own at the time of your death, and where it is all located.  In order to make sure your estate plan works for you, in the way you intend, you need to update it whenever your assets or liabilities change.

Your estate plan should evolve with the changes in your life. It is not a one-and-done task. If you need to review or update your estate plan, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call with Harpeth Estate Law to learn more about our estate planning process where we'll discuss your family dynamics and goals, address any changes in your life, and create a comprehensive estate plan that brings you peace of mind.

About the Author

Charlotte Davis

Charlotte Davis brings 20 years of professional experience to Harpeth Estate Law, which she started to help clients set up estate plans that provide for their loved ones and their legacy after death.

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