When Should I Review and Amend My Documents?

Posted by on Oct 22, 2020

When Should I Review and Amend My Documents?

Fall Greetings!

I hope you all are faring well during these difficult times.

There are a number of questions that people ask me often.

This year, I am often asked if I am still open for business. Yes, I have worked full time throughout the year. Since March, I have been working mostly from home and meeting clients only by phone and on-line. Early into the pandemic, I converted all of my systems to be able to work remotely.

So if you’ve been hesitating to contact me, please know that I am fully available.

The other question that I often receive is this: when is it time to review and amend one’s documents?

It’s a good question. There isn’t a one-size-fits all answer.

In general, if nothing big has changed for you in terms of your family, your property, or your favorite charities, it’s still a good idea to review your documents at least every, say, five years, to make sure that the terms of your trust and other documents are consistent with your current wishes.

Beyond that, there are some events and issues that come up that should prompt you to consider whether your trust and other documents need an update.

We amend a trust when we are changing the terms of the trust, and that usually has to do with who’s in charge—the trustees—and who will inherit—the beneficiaries.

When someone you have named as a trustee or executor has died, become too old or frail to serve, has moved far away, or you’re just not in touch with them anymore, then it’s time to amend your trust to nominate someone else as a successor trustee.

If you’ve gotten divorced or married, that’s a prompt to review and change your estate plan.

Very commonly, people amend their trust when their children have become mature enough that they now make a good choice for successor trustees.

With children as beneficiaries, a good reason to amend a trust is when children become mature enough to inherit outright, rather than having to wait until they reach a certain age.

You might want to amend your trust if you’ve included charities among your beneficiaries and you’re now thinking differently about which charities you’d like to make a gift to.

You do not have to make an amendment to your trust if you have opened or closed bank accounts or even if you have sold one house and bought another. However, you do want to make sure, as years go by, that you have maintained your real estate and financial assets (not counting retirement accounts) in your names as trustees of your trust, and that is a good reason to do a general review as well.

If you have recently re-financed a home, you don’t need to amend your trust, but you do need to be vigilant to see that if a lender took your house out of trust, that they have put it back in once the re-fi has been completed. If not, and you need help with that, let me know.

As for your health directives, you want to think about this at least every few years: are the people you’ve named to make potentially life-and-death health decisions for you still good choices? If not, ask me or your doctors for a new health directive form and complete a new one.

If you’ve made lists of who should receive your personal items such as jewelry, artwork, furniture and the like, consider updating those lists from time to time.

The idea with revocable living trusts, and all the other estate planning documents, is that we expect to make changes to these documents over time as our circumstances change. Please take some time now and then to consider whether you need to update your estate plan.