One of the best times to update an existing estate plan is at the beginning of a new year. Getting ahead on the previous year’s tax changes, market fluctuations, or life events that may have significant effects on your plan going forward could save you as issues arise in the future. It also could provide for peace of mind knowing that your wishes are explained in a legally sound way.

A particular life event to be aware of is a death in the family. A beneficiary named in a Will, for example, may pass away before the drafter of the will does. It is a painful thought, but it happens all the time. If it is your spouse and he or she was the main beneficiary to your will, then you will need to reassign someone else to take your spouse’s place. You will also need to update other estate documents wherein he or she was named, such as a Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney.

Placing your assets into a Revocable Trust could help you avoid probate. If the trustee, or the person who manages the trust, however, passes away prematurely then a number of complications could follow. Being prepared for that possibility would require naming a designated “successor trustee,” or perhaps several successor trustees in case your initial choice needs an option to resign, or becomes unable to perform necessary responsibilities at some point.

An updated estate plan could proactively account for these scenarios, and the beginning of a new year is a great time to do it. Contact your estate planning attorney to make sure that alternative beneficiaries, personal representatives, successor trustees, and the like, are named in your estate planning documents. Doing so can help ensure an important degree of continuity at a difficult time.

These are just a few examples of how a death in the family could impact even the best estate plans. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers for you. Do not wait to contact us with your questions now or in the new year.