How Often Can I Change My Estate Plan?

California law does not place limits on how often you can change your will and trust instruments. For most people, the opposite problem arises. They may know that they need to update their estate planning documents regularly, but instead, put it off.  Or they may not realize that they need to review and update their documents on a regular basis, especially following significant life changes.

A California estate planning attorney can help you evaluate your circumstances and let you know if you should revise your will or trust documents. Whether your question is how often can I change my will or how often should I change my will, an estate planning attorney can help guide you through your decisions. 

Marriage and Divorce

Getting married creates legal rights and obligations for both spouses. Even if you have a prenuptial agreement, you should review and likely revise your estate plan, to clarify each of your intentions concerning inheritance. Without a legally binding agreement to the contrary, state law may prevent you from disinheriting your spouse, especially with regard to your community property. You do not, however, have to leave everything to your spouse.

When you divorce, you will also need to seek advice concerning your existing estate plan. Family law may set limits on whether or when you may modify your existing estate plan.  But you’ll want to consult with an estate planning attorney to explore your options.  Upon the termination of your marriage, you will likely want to change who gets your assets when you die, and also who will serve as your trustee and executor of your estate.

Also, you will want to take a look at other estate planning documents like your financial power of attorney and your advance health care directive. Few people would want their former spouse handling their money or making their medical decisions if they become incapacitated.

Children

If you already have an estate plan in place, you may want to update it when you and your spouse are about to have a baby. You do not have to wait until the baby is born and you are sleep-deprived to make revisions to your estate planning documents.

They Grow Up So Quickly

One day you may be in the carpool lane waiting to pick up your child from elementary school.  Seemingly the next day, you may look at your adult child and marvel at the adult they have become. At this point, you might want to consider updating your estate plan to make your child your trustee and executor of your estate. The decision may turn on your family’s overall situation.

When Your Loved Ones Struggle

You might want to talk to your estate planning lawyer about how to best protect the inheritance for your loved ones who may have intellectual impairments, mental illness, substance abuse issues, or if you have other concerns about their ability to manage the assets they inherit. 

For example, you may execute a trust agreement that names an independent trustee to oversee distributions to these heirs until they are ready to manage the assets themselves, or perhaps for the rest of their lives. An independent trustee may help a loved one who does not manage money well, who is easily duped, or who has a spouse that may not be trustworthy.  

Protecting Your Friends from Your Family

Sadly, many of us have close relatives who do not care for the people we choose to have in our lives, or who believe they have a better claim to your assets than the friends you choose. Your friends may have no legal rights to your estate unless you create and affirm those rights with effective estate planning instruments that make your intentions clear and enforceable. 

We advise that you talk with a California estate planning attorney about your options for minimizing the damage and circumventing such a relative – to ensure that your chosen beneficiaries receive the gifts you intend for them.

Contact our office today to set up a consultation to discuss your options.