How and When to Modify Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan is a collection of documents describing how you want your possessions divided after you pass away. Your estate plan also makes arrangements for managing your estate if you become ill and cannot make medical decisions for yourself. Once you’ve created your estate plan, you may need to make updates periodically. You should review your estate plan every five to ten years, making changes as necessary. You may wish to modify your estate plan to add or remove beneficiaries (such as adding the birth of a grandchild or after a relative passes away), make changes based on marital status, update contact information after moving to a new state, or after buying or selling a large asset (such as a home or an antique car). Here’s an overview of how to update common estate planning documents in Florida. 

Modifying a Will 

If you only want to modify a particular element of your will, you can adjust it by creating an amendment (also called a codicil). Codicils are added to the end of your original will and must be signed by you and two witnesses to be valid. Sometimes, you may want to make substantial changes to the entire document, like removing a spouse from receiving assets after a divorce. In this case, you should create an entirely new document and revoke the old one. You’ll want to place a notice in the document that the new version replaces older versions. To avoid confusion, destroy old versions and only keep the most recent document on hand. 

Trust Modifications 

Trusts allow you to pass assets to beneficiaries while avoiding probate. Revocable trusts can be modified after they are created, allowing you to remove or add assets, make amendments, and change beneficiaries. To update a revocable trust, create a separate document titled “Amendment” and add it to the declaration. Underneath, you can describe what changes you want to make to the trust. The amendment should be filed with the original trust information. 

Advanced Directives 

Advanced directives allow you to state your desires and preferences for medical treatment if you become incapacitated. Types of advanced directives include living wills, healthcare directives, and healthcare surrogate appointments. To update an advanced directive, such as naming a new healthcare surrogate, you’ll want to draft a new directive and revoke the old one. Once your new directive is created, you’ll want to ensure you’ve gathered copies of the old directive from doctors, nursing homes, hospitals, your estate planning attorney, and other medical facilities to be destroyed. Then, provide a copy of the newest document to the relevant parties.

Durable Power of Attorney 

A durable power of attorney goes into effect if you become unconscious or incapacitated. You may want to modify a POA agent or the terms of the POA after it’s created. The best way to modify a POA before it goes into effect is to create a new document, revoke the old version, and remove old copies from various records. It’s best to take a look and update any POAs you have every ten years. 

Accounts and Assets with Beneficiary Designations 

Assets with beneficiary designations don’t go through probate. Types of assets with beneficiary designations include IRAs, investment accounts, and life insurance policies. It can also include real property that you jointly own with someone else. It’s important to keep beneficiary designations up to date, as assets for accounts with “payable upon death” or “transfer upon death” benefits are distributed to listed beneficiaries immediately after you pass away. If you have a beneficiary designation that differs from your will, the asset would go to the person designated as the beneficiary on the account. 

 Create and Modify Estate Planning Documents in Kissimmee, FL

Creating and updating an estate plan requires many moving parts. Often, details can be lost in the mix. Work with an estate planning attorney like Kathy D. Sheive to ensure nothing is missed when updating or modifying your estate plan. Our office will confirm that the necessary updates are made across all your estate planning documents. Call us at 407-315-2268 to see how we can help you. 

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