June 2023

Lawyer for Life. Keeping your family healthy, wealthy and wise.

Working with an estate planner provides the chance to create a comprehensive plan that addresses your needs at that point in time. It may be the case that your plan continues to serve your needs for years to come, but it’s far more likely that shifting laws, family dynamics, and your personal goals for your estate may shift. Talking to an estate planning lawyer ensures that your plan aligns with your new needs.


Starting a New Job or Career


Starting a new job is an exciting time for you, and it’s easy to overlook your retirement account beneficiary forms in the flurry of new paperwork you fill out as you start. Whether or not you’re bringing over accounts from a previous role, now is a good time to make sure you set up primary and secondary beneficiary designations for your retirement accounts and any company-offered life insurance policies.


Note: Retirement accounts and most life insurance policies pass outside of probate, so naming your intended heirs for these assets in your will is not sufficient. Review beneficiary designations yearly.

Buying a House


A house is likely the biggest investment you’ll make. It’s not just a place for you to live, but it’s a place to raise your family and an asset that appreciates over time. You may need to adjust your estate plan to verify that it is distributed to your chosen loved ones after you pass. Some estate planning strategies such as a transfer-on-death deed allow your spouse to remain in the house and take over ownership without going through probate. You may also need to adjust your life insurance policy coverage so that your family has liquid assets to continue paying the mortgage should something happen to you.


Marriage or Divorce


Two of the biggest life events that lead to estate plan revisions are marriage and divorce. When you marry someone, you should consider a united estate plan that addresses concerns such as:

  • Healthcare documents that explain your wishes for future care
  • Power of attorney documents naming your spouse or other trusted person as your decision maker should you become incapacitated
  • Asset distribution for children from previous marriages, where applicable
  • Beneficiary designation updates on life insurance policies and retirement accounts


Note: One common mistake is to forget to update these documents after a divorce. If your spouse is still listed on powers of attorney or beneficiary forms, they are legally entitled to serve in that role or receive those assets. Meet with your lawyer for a full review of your plan.


Death/Health Changes in a Family Member or Appointed Person


If you have someone named as an executor, trustee, power of attorney agent, or beneficiary and they pass away, you need to update all associated documents to name someone new. Even if your documented person is still alive, they may be unable or willing to serve in this role due to a range of issues. For example, if your power of attorney agent has been diagnosed with dementia, you may wish to revisit your plan.


Birth or Adoption of New Family Members


Adding new family members is always exciting, but it calls for a review of your asset distribution plan. You may also need to name a guardian for your minor child in your will to ensure that your chosen person is able to step into this role quickly should something happen to you and any other parent. As with buying a house, you may also want to re-evaluate your existing life insurance coverage.

An estate planning lawyer is a resource and advocates for you during your life. Reach out to make updates to your plan when any of these big life changes happen for you.


If you become incapacitated or pass away suddenly, this can be very challenging for loved ones. Many people are legitimately concerned about sharing too much detail with their family members about end-of-life plans, but the truth is that some communication over important issues can minimize their stress during difficult times. Here are some things to consider sharing with your family members about your estate plan.


Who Is Named as a Key Person


If you have a loved one named as a trustee, executor, power of attorney agent, or guardian of your minor child, they should know in advance about this. You may wish to discuss with them what such a role entails to confirm if they are comfortable to serve in that role. Some people don’t learn they have been named as an executor of an estate until someone passes away, leading to confusion and additional stress.


If any of your heirs are involved in your future incapacity, end-of-life, or estate plan, make sure you have talked this over with them in advance.


Where to Find Important Documents


If your loved ones and appointed executor don’t know where to find important paperwork, this can cause delays in probate administration and distribution of your assets to your heirs. Anyone appointed as your estate executor or personal representative should know where to find things like:

  • Your will
  • Funeral/burial instructions/contact details
  • Your power of attorney documents
  • A personal balance sheet (itemized list of assets/liabilities)
  • Titles to vehicles
  • Deeds for homes
  • Copies of life insurance policies


Note: It’s not wise to include funeral and burial instructions in your will. These are immediate concerns, and your family members or executor may not locate your will promptly.


Which People Form Your Team of Professional Advisors?


It can be a lot of work to serve as an executor or trustee of an estate. Make that person’s workload lighter by providing them with contact information for any people who may need to be contacted regarding your affairs. This may include:

  • CPAs who can help with final tax returns and estate tax returns
  • Financial advisors who know the locations of various brokerage, checking, and savings accounts
  • Real estate agents who can help sell properties that will not transfer to an heir’s ownership
  • Funeral, burial, or cremation companies from whom you’ve purchased plans in advance
  • Your estate planning lawyer


One of the most challenging aspects of communicating your estate to loved ones is to what extent you inform them about the assets you intend for them. Since this is highly dependent on family dynamics, consider a conversation with your estate planning lawyer about what might be appropriate.