When you buy a new car, everything works perfectly. (At least, you hope it does.) But then in 3,000 miles, it’s time for an oil change. Also, you must keep your eye on the level of coolant in the radiator, your transmission fluid, and your power steering fluid. You must make sure your alternator works to keep the battery charged.
What happens if you don’t maintain your car? Your engine could burn up. Your transmission could fail. Your car could overheat. Your battery could go dead. All of which means you’re stuck on the side of the road trying to hitchhike to the nearest town.
Your estate plan is like your car. When you set it up, everything is current and accurate. But you need to keep your eye on your assets, insurance, powers of attorney, gifting program, distribution plan, successor trustees, beneficiaries, and so much more. That’s why it’s important that you meet with your estate planning attorney every couple of years.
You wouldn’t think of going on a long trip without making sure your car was in tip-top shape. Yet every day, people embark on the long trip we call life. And the problem with our “life trip” is that we’re never sure when that trip might end. Your estate plan might not ever need to be changed if your circumstances never change. But our circumstances seem to always be changing.
When your circumstances change, we should update your estate plan. For example: You should review your estate plan with your estate planning attorney any time (1) you get married, (2) you and your spouse divorce, (3) your spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, (4) your health changes, (5) you have or adopt a child, (6) your children marry or divorce, (7) a potential problem arises with a beneficiary, (8) the value of your assets changes, (9) your employment changes, (10) your business interests change, (11) you retire, (12) you acquire property in another state, (13) you move to a different state, or (14) something happens to a person named in your estate plan that could affect your relationship or the duties they are to perform on your behalf.
But wait. Is your estate plan really like your car? It’s more accurate to say it’s like a fire engine – ready to handle any emergency at a moment’s notice. When your spouse has a heart attack, you want the paramedics – right now! You don’t want to call 9-1-1 and have the dispatcher explain to you that the fire truck has a dead battery. Or a flat tire. It would be ridiculous to buy a new fire engine, back it into the fire station where it waits for the next emergency, and then not have a mechanic check under the hood for a year. Do you know how many things can go wrong with a fire truck’s engine if it goes without service for a year?
Yet that’s exactly what people do with their estate plans. They invest hard-earned money to set up their plans. Then they put their plans in a drawer or safe deposit box where they gather dust for 10 years, 25 years, even 40 years — often without ever updating the plan even once!
And then when these people have an emergency, you know what happens? They dig out their paperwork only to learn that the plan no longer works. You see, it was custom designed to fit their specific needs 10 years ago. But now their needs have changed — and no one updated the plan. What a tragedy! Your estate plan must be fully operational, ready to handle any emergency at a moment’s notice.
If your spouse has a heart attack and cannot make medical decisions, you don’t want the nurse at the hospital to explain that the legislature changed the law and now your powers of attorney are no longer valid. Or, if your spouse dies, you don’t want the judge to tell you your estate must go through probate because your living trust is out of date.
You need your estate plan to be ready for any emergency – 24 hours per day – because you never know when you might need it. An out-of-date estate plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. But a current estate plan that works precisely the way it should – protecting your family and safeguarding your assets – is the greatest gift of love you can give to your family, your spouse, and yourself.
Your custom designed estate plan, created specifically for you – combined with regular maintenance meetings to keep your estate plan in tip-top shape – is the best investment you’ll ever make. I guarantee it.
I invite you to call for a free appointment to learn how you can protect your family and your assets. Also, if you have any questions or comments, you’re welcome to call me at 303-974-4400. I’ll be pleased to speak with you over the telephone without charge.