You might think that estate planning is something you can complete one time and then check off your to-do list for good. But the reality is that in order for your estate plan to work for you no matter how your life changes, your plan needs to change with it.
To make sure any big changes in your life are considered in your plan, I recommend reviewing your estate plan with your attorney at least every three years. But if any major life events happen before then, it’s crucial to have your plan reviewed as soon as possible so it can be updated if needed.
In part one, we started to explore 10 life changes that might affect your estate plan. This week, we’re covering five more life events that signal it’s time to review your plan.
06 | You Became Seriously Ill or Injured
A sudden illness or injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs. Therefore, it's essential to review your estate plan to ensure it includes Powers of Attorney for health care and finances. These documents let you name someone you trust to pay your bills and manage your assets, as well as make medical decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
It’s also important to include health care directives that describe what kind of health care you want if you become incapacitated. This can include dietary restrictions or preferences, religious beliefs, or limits to certain treatments or life-sustaining measures. By legally documenting your health care choices, your Power of Attorney will feel more comfortable in the role and will be able to make medical decisions for you that align with your wishes.
07 | You Moved Here From Another State
Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding estate planning, so if you moved here from another state after completing your estate plan, it’s crucial to have your plan reviewed by a local attorney. If your existing plan doesn’t meet our state’s requirements for how an estate plan is signed or witnessed, or contains terms or processes that differ from the processes of our state, this can cause delays when your plan needs to be used and may even require a court to review its validity.
Reviewing your plan with a local attorney and making any changes to comply with our laws will make sure that your estate plan can be relied upon at any moment without delay or confusion.
08 | You Got Married
Marriage brings about not only joy and celebration but also important legal updates that are easy to put off. When you tie the knot, your estate plan needs to reflect your new marital status. Some states automatically make your spouse a co-owner of some of your property, but that doesn’t ensure an easy transfer of that property to your spouse when you die. Other states, like Hawai`i, do not make any automatic updates in ownership.
To make sure your assets will go to your new spouse if you die or become incapacitated, it’s essential to update beneficiaries and make arrangements for shared assets. Additionally, you might consider creating provisions to protect your spouse financially and emotionally in the event of your passing.
09 | You Got a Divorce
The end of a marriage is a significant life event that requires immediate attention to your estate plan. After a divorce, you’ll likely need to revoke and redo your entire estate plan. This includes creating a new Will and Trust, updating beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts, and revising asset distribution to reflect your new circumstances and relationships.
If you have children from your previous marriage, you may need to revisit guardianship arrangements and provide for their financial needs accordingly.
10 | The Law Changed
Tax laws are subject to change, and revisions to estate tax exemptions can have a substantial impact on your estate plan. If there are significant changes in federal or state estate tax laws, it's crucial to review your plan with an estate planning attorney to minimize tax burdens and protect your wealth for your loved ones.
Even if you weren’t affected by federal or state estate taxes in the past, changes in federal estate tax law are scheduled for 2026, so now is the time to review whether this change will affect your family’s estate tax filing status. Estate taxes can cost your family tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, but these tax liabilities are optional and can be avoided with proper estate planning.
By Your Side Through All of Life’s Changes
Your estate plan serves as the bedrock protecting your family and finances, not just for today but also for the future. However, estate planning isn't a one-time task - it should adapt and evolve alongside the changes in your life.
My mission is to be by your side through all of life's changes, ensuring your estate plan remains up-to-date and effective no matter what life brings your way. That's why I offer my clients a complimentary review of their estate plan every three years, and I encourage them to reach out at any time before then with questions about life changes or events that might affect their plan.
If you’re ready to create an estate plan that protects your loved ones and your legacy, or want your existing plan updated, contact me. I’d be honored to help ensure your family’s well-being for years to come.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a planning session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
Disclaimer: All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney trained to work with families on estate planning matters regarding your specific situation. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, and any users or any other party.