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The Dean Law Firm Blog

Monday, May 18, 2020

Four Simple Steps to Keeping your Estate Plan Relevant

by Laura L. Bromlow, J.D., CELA

I often get similar questions from clients when they are considering creating their estate plan.  “Once my plan is done, is there anything I need to do to maintain it?” Or, “How often should I review my estate planning documents?”  And, “What is the expense of keeping my estate plan up to date?”  These questions all speak to related issues, which is how to keep your estate planning documents relevant.

Investing in a quality estate plan, whether will-based or trust-based, is no cheap endeavor and you will want to make sure it is going to work for you and your loved ones the way you want.  As someone who has helped hundreds of clients set their wishes down in writing (in their revocable living trust, will, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney and other related documents), I have formed a clear understanding of how you can make sure your estate planning documents work for you, how to keep them relevant.

First, find excellent, knowledgeable legal counsel from someone who stays up to date on estate and tax laws.  Your estate planning attorney should be someone who listens to you and gets to know your needs, values, priorities and specific family and social situation.  Without this combination of intellectual knowledge and interpersonal connection from your attorney, you will likely end up with a plan that does not work for you the way you want it to. 

Second, once you have executed your estate planning documents, your work is not over.  You will need to review these on a regular basis to make sure they continue to make sense in light of your ever-changing life circumstances.  I recommend to my clients that they review the summary of their will or trust as well as all their assets, on a yearly basis, to ensure it all still makes sense.  An easy way to remember to do your review is to coordinate it with tax season.  Every year when you get ready to submit your tax returns, take a look at your plan.  It’s that easy.

Now, there will be times when a bigger event takes place, and it should trigger you to review your plan and perhaps schedule a meeting with your estate planning attorney to go over it with you and decide whether changes are warranted.  Getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, the death of a child or spouse, children getting older, children becoming an adult and moving to a new state are all examples of big events that should trigger you to schedule this important appointment.

Finally, changes in the law may require you to amend your documents for them to work properly.  But you are not expected to keep up with all the changes in the law, which takes me back to my first recommendation of finding that attorney who is going to stay up to date on these changes.  You should make sure that the attorney you choose will stay in touch with you through newsletters, emails and client seminars so that you will be notified when a change in the law could impact your estate plan.

The Dean Law Firm, PLLC has Preferred Client Maintenance Programs in place for those clients who are serious about keeping their documents relevant and up to date.  The programs allow for ongoing education and communication with the clients, including special events for those clients who are members. In addition, the premium program includes certain updates to your documents on an annual basis free of additional charge.  For those clients who elect not to become a member, The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, will maintain contact and get the word out when laws have changed.

We don’t want you to spend your hard-earned money on creating estate planning documents that are not useful at the time you need them.  It is important that you take these simple steps to keep your plan working for you.  If you choose wisely, your estate planning law firm can take much of the burden from you and will be your best friend when it comes to having your personalized plan in place; one that works for you and your loved ones when needed.

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The Dean Law Firm, PLLC assists clients in Sugar Land, TX and throughout Houston in Fort Bend County and Harris County.

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