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Maybe It’s Time to Update Your Estate Plan

Imagine this scenario: A newly married couple in their late twenties or early thirties decide to sit down with an attorney and map out an estate plan. They write a will, purchase life insurance policies, perhaps establish a trust fund for the children they plan to have one day. It all sounds great.

Then life happens.

Estate Plans Change As Life Changes

By the time the children are in high school, the parents have divorced. Mom and Dad then remarry other people who also have children from their first marriages, so both parents are now raising blended families with two sets of stepchildren. Years later, Dad and his new wife are killed in a tragic accident. What happens to their estate?

If you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s complicated,” you’re right. That’s why, every so often, it’s a good idea to review any estate plan you’ve created in order to make adjustments in response to life changes.

Outdated Estate Plans Set Stage for New Conflicts

Some of the most bitter legal battles over property rights within families occur because someone failed to update an estate plan. For example, a will written when a husband and wife were young newlyweds was never rewritten in the aftermath of a contentious divorce that left the couple at each other’s throats, thereby setting the stage for a protracted fight in probate court among their heirs over who gets what. Old life insurance policies may still list an ex-spouse as the beneficiary rather than the present spouse, allowing an estranged former partner to collect on the policy. Trusts established for the benefit of a couple’s children may not provide for stepchildren acquired years later through a second marriage, regardless of whether that was the parent’s intent at the time of death.

Revisions Still Needed Even in Best of Times

Obviously, we hope none of the unfortunate events described here comes to pass. But as attorneys charged with the responsibility of looking out for our clients’ best interest, such scenarios are real possibilities we’re forced to take into account.

Even when life goes smoothly, periodically revisiting your estate plan is also in order. A will leaving specific property to specific people may need updating as property is sold, new assets are acquired, and personal relationships and other circumstances change. The estate plan that looked good on paper when you and your spouse were just starting your careers may need major revisions as your household income grows and your tax liability increases.

Does Your Will Comply With Florida Law?

In Florida, the state bar association offers an online primer on writing a will, the consequences of not having one, and some basic suggestions on what should be included.

Many Floridians have moved to the Sunshine State in retirement or after having lived in other parts of the country as young adults. For that reason, the state bar recommends consulting a Florida lawyer to review your will “to be sure that it is properly executed according to the laws of Florida, that the witnesses are readily available to prove your will in Florida, and that your personal representative is qualified to serve in Florida.”

Most importantly, you don’t have to be rich to have a will or to begin work on a comprehensive estate plan. At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., we recommend estate planning for people of all incomes. To speak with an attorney in our Boca Raton, Lake Worth, or West Palm Beach office, contact us today.

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