Is it Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

18/03/24

When was the last time you updated your estate plan? This article serves as a timely reminder to review your estate plan every 3-5 years to ensure it accurately reflects your wishes upon your passing.

Your estate plan

So, you have made a Will, Appointment of Enduring Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian – well done! You have prudently prepared for the future by putting these documents in place as part of your estate plan. Although you have taken such steps to ensure your wishes are fulfilled upon your passing, how long ago were these documents prepared? If they were prepared around 3-5 years ago, it is likely time to consider updating your estate plan.

Reasons to update your estate plan

There are several reasons why you should update your estate plan every 3-5 years. Some common reasons include changes in:

  1. Your relationships
    Changes in your relationships may have occurred in the previous 3-5 years that would justify an update to your estate plan. Marriages and divorce can in certain circumstances invalidate a Will.
  2. Assets
    With changes in your personal life comes changes to your assets. You may have purchased a new family home for the children on the way, or even downgraded to a smaller home after the kids have left the nest. When your assets significantly change, your estate plan should also change with them to ensure your Will reflects your current circumstances.
  3. Beneficiaries’ circumstances
    Not only do changes in your own relationships justify an update to your estate plan, but changes in your beneficiaries’ circumstances may also have an impact on this. For instance, one of your children, who is a beneficiary under your Will, may now be operating a business as a sole trader. You may wish to put certain measures in place to ensure your child’s creditors cannot make a claim on their distribution from your estate.
  4. The law
    The law may have changed since you last prepared your estate plan. Such changes may have an impact on the distribution of assets to your beneficiaries. Your lawyer should always  inform you of any changes if they will have an impact on your estate plan.

Failing to update your estate plan to reflect your updated intentions can increase the risk of interference with your wishes. As such, if something has occurred that would justify a change to your estate plan, it is important to address such changes as soon as practicable to reduce the risk of this occurring.

What should I do next?

A lawyer should always be engaged to assist you with updating your estate plan. It may be tempting to use “DIY Will Kits” to save on costs of engaging a professional, but spending money on legal services now will likely save you significantly more down the line.

Wills often use complex and technical terms, such as “bequeath”, “testator”, “testamentary” or “executor”. Not understanding the meaning of such words can have drastic consequences. There are also witnessing requirements for Wills that people using DIY Will Kits commonly fail to comply with. These mistakes can be costly in the long run and can even invalidate a Will.

Takeaway

It is important to review your estate plan every 3-5 years. SWS Lawyers has over 20 years of experience in assisting people update their estate plans to reflect their changing circumstances. If you are unsure of when you last updated your estate plan, it is probably time to review it to ensure it accurately reflects your wishes upon your passing.

Contributors

This article was co-written by Lawyer, Jack Harman.

This article is not legal advice.  It is intended to provide commentary and general information only.  Access to this article does not entitle you to rely on it as legal advice.  You should obtain formal legal advice specific to your own situation.  Please contact us if you require advice on matters covered by this article.