When you look back at your past, you recall milestone events that shaped who you are today. Such events as weddings, divorces, births, deaths, new careers and retirement will continue to add to your story for the rest of your life.
Besides making up your and your family’s history, personal milestones are often a good time to review your estate plan. Significant changes in your personal or professional life can mean that your plan, as currently written, is outdated. Or you could be missing a vital document you did not need before but definitely do now.
- Turning 18. Usually, the moment you become a legal adult, your parents or guardians no longer have the power to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf. Using an advance health care directive, you can explain the extent of life-extending care you would want if you are ever incapacitated during a medical emergency. You can also name a trusted relative as your durable power of attorney to carry out your health care preferences and handle your finances if necessary.
- Marriage. After getting married, you will probably want to protect your spouse in case of sudden death. You can draw up a will to make them your sole (or primary) heir and set up a trust with them as the beneficiary. You should also consider changing your power of attorney form to designate your spouse instead of whoever you had named previously.
- Having children. If you and your spouse have kids, your estate planning focus naturally becomes providing for them if something should happen to the two of you. You can revise your will and trust to leave your estate to your kids.
- Divorce and remarriage. If you ever get divorced, most likely, you will no longer want your ex to inherit your assets or take charge of your medical care and financial needs. But if you don’t update your estate plan, that is exactly what will happen. This can be especially important if you marry someone new at some point.
- Aging. As you get older and retire, your estate planning needs change once again. By now, you may have grandchildren you might wish to include among your heirs. Paying for things like nursing home care might become an issue. If your spouse has passed or is no longer capable of being your power of attorney, you can shift that responsibility to one of your children or someone else you trust.
As you can see, you can adjust your estate plan to fit every stage of your life.