Estate Plan Review: When Do I Need One?

November 30, 2016

As estate planning lawyers, we are regularly asked “When do I need to do an estate plan review?” When we draft an estate plan for a client, we attempt to draft with an eye towards the future so that frequent updates are not necessary. However, when a client experiences life changing events, or after a significant passage of time, we actively recommend a review of your existing estate plan.

Regardless of whether it is a trust or a last will and testament based plan, a proper estate plan should help in many ways:

Give Yourself Peace of Mind

A properly crafted estate plan can give you peace of mind, knowing your assets and family are well protected. Our estate planning lawyers will help you get there.

  • protect you and your family in the event of illness, disability or death.
  • help eliminate or reduce to the fullest extent potential family disputes.
  • help save money and help your heirs save time.
  • assist you in avoiding probate, if appropriate.

When is the Right Time for an Estate Plan Review?

At Wokwicz Law Offices, we generally recommend a review of your estate plan if your circumstances meet any of the following conditions:

  • a significant amount of time has passed since the estate plan was created;
  • significant life changes have transpired; significant life changes may include the deaths of loved ones or other items listed below.
  • you have moved to Wisconsin.

Changes to Wisconsin Tax and Estate Planning Law

Due to several tax law changes for trusts and estates, older trust based plans should be reviewed and updated where necessary to comply with the newer tax laws.

Many older trust plans are based on outdated tax law strategies that may no longer be necessary, which makes your old estate plan more complex than is currently required under the newer tax laws. Often, an older out of date trust based plan can actually be simplified due to changes in the estate tax laws.

What Items Should You Look For in Determining if a Review is Necessary?

If you have an existing Will, Trust, or Power of Attorney in place, have they been reviewed in the last five years?

If not, you may want to consider a review. Newer Power of Attorney and Trust statutes in Wisconsin can allow us to include a lot more flexibility and options than the older Power of Attorney and Trust statutes. Sitting down to discuss if the newer options under Wisconsin law are right for you, could very well be worth the time and effort.

If you have an existing trust, does it contain a “spend thrift” creditor protection clause to help protect from your beneficiaries’ creditors or bankruptcy?

If not, it should be updated to include provisions to protect your beneficiaries inheritance from their creditors.

Have you remarried, divorced or are you planning to remarry?

If so, it is time to have your estate plan reviewed. Wisconsin statutes may change your written estate plan for you, if you have remarried or divorced, by “operation of law” without your knowledge and without actually changing the documents.

Additional Questions for Considering an Estate Plan Review

If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, then we would typically recommend that you review your estate plan:

  1. If you have a Trust plan, is it funded correctly to avoid probate?
  2. If you are married do you have a marital property agreement that helps to avoid probate and fund the trust?
  3. Have your assets changed significantly since you set up your Trust plan?
  4. Have you purchased a new house or a second house in Wisconsin or in another state?
  5. Are the persons you appointed to oversee your health care under your Power of Attorney for Health Care still the persons that you would choose to undertake your health care decisions today if you are not able?
  6. Are the persons you appointed to oversee your financial decisions under your Durable Power of Attorney still the persons that you would choose to be in charge of your financial decisions today?
  7. Do you have young children who are now grown up and could a child or children now be placed in charge of your trust, health care of financial decisions?
  8. If you have minor children, are you happy with the persons you named in your will to be guardians?
  9. If you have children who have grown up, is there an unnecessary trust fund set up for your child or children who no longer need it?
  10. Have trustees, personal representatives or agents under your power of attorney, trust, will or other documents passed away or become too old to handle your affairs?
  11. Have family disputes arisen or have family members or friends moved away who you previously thought would oversee your affairs?
  12. Is it time to name new trustees, power of attorney, personal representatives or agents?
  13. When you look at your estate plan do you see items that you know are no longer what you want or items that you know need to be updated?
  14. Has a child or other family member become disabled who may require a special needs trust?
  15. Is it time to protect assets from a nursing home since a typical trust plan such as a revocable trust estate plan will not protect assets from a nursing home?

(We have previously discussed additional considerations.)

Estate Plan Review Lawyers

At Wokwicz Law Offices LLC, we have represented generations of families since 1958. We know the current estate planning and probate laws and the past laws. We have created and reviewed thousands of estate plans over the years.

Our lawyers can quickly and efficiently assess and identify estate planning items that may need to be updated, changed or discussed further. We will honestly and with integrity let you know if you need an estate plan review, or if your plan is fine “as is”.

We always put your interest first when creating, drafting, reviewing or revising an estate plan. That is why we have been around the Kenosha area for so long, with thousands of happy and satisfied estate planning clients. Feel free to call us to see if we can be of service to you and your family.

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This article is intended as general legal information and not as legal advice to any particular client, nor is it intended as advice on any particular issue or matter. If you have any questions regarding the subject matter of this article, or wish to discuss how the subject matter of this article may apply to your situation, please contact us.