You finally did it. You made a will, set up a trust, took care of all your estate planning. Whew — you’re all done! Or are you?
Anna Nicole Smith wrote a will when she was only 33 years old. At the time, she had one child, and she wanted to protect her son as best she could. She didn’t know that he would die before her — no parent ever wants to contemplate such a thing. She had no idea that she would ever have another child. She certainly never thought that she would die before she was even forty years old. She thought she had done the responsible thing by writing a will, and she was done. Yet, six years later, her untimely death sparked a firestorm of litigation and the court ultimately ruled that she had died without a valid will. What happened?
Life happened. Things changed, the way they always do. Estate planning is all about taking care of yourself and your heirs, investing in their future while protecting your own. The trouble is, nobody really knows what that future will look like. Lacking a reliable crystal ball, the only thing we can say for sure is that there will be changes in your life.
Heath Ledger wrote a will at age 23, leaving his already-large estate to his parents and siblings. He couldn’t possibly have known that he would fall in love two years later with a woman named Michelle Williams, much less that they would have a child together. He had no way to know that his health would suffer over the next few years as his movie-star career continued to thrive. If he had been able to predict his own tragic death at age 28, he would surely have updated his will. Even his fame and fortune couldn’t take the place of that crystal ball, though; depending on where he lived at the time of his death, his beloved two-year-old daughter may have no legal claim on any part of his estate.
You wouldn’t expect your annual physical exam to guarantee lifelong health. You take your car for regular maintenance. Your finances get a quick review at tax-time, no matter what happens the rest of the year. Why should your estate plan be any different?
Get your estate planning done as soon as you can. Then, do an annual checkup every year. Even if your life hasn’t changed much, the laws might have. Check with your estate planning attorney; most people should update their estate plans at least every 3-5 years. Diamonds may be forever, but estate plans are not.
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