No matter how old or new your estate plans are, it's important to remember that your will or trust is a flexible document, even as it stands for a secure future for your loved ones. Expect to update or change your official estate plans as family members are born and others pass on, when assets change significantly, or when there are other circumstances that require special provisions.
There are two important moments when you should definitely consult your estate planning attorney to go over your wills and trusts and make necessary changes:
When laws are updated
In early 2016 New Jersey was the latest state to enact provisions of the Uniform Trust Code (UTC), which details how wills and trusts should be handled, managed and settled by the courts and other parties. Promoted by the Uniform Law Commission, the UTC is a way to standardize estate law so that all state courts govern wills and trusts in the same or similar manner. (You can read the full text of the New Jersey version of the law here.)
Over 28 states have enacted some of the provisions in the UTC. In the case of the New Jersey code, the laws are retroactive and cover any and all existing wills. If you had a competent attorney draw up your will, you should already be covered and meet the requirements of your particular state's laws. But if you live in New Jersey, or in any state that has enacted the code after your will was filed, it's a smart call to have your estate attorney go over your documents to be sure everything is compliant with your state's latest trust rules.
When special needs arise
Life throws us curve balls all the time. Accidents, disease or sudden illness may render a formerly active family member unable to properly care for their own needs. Whether you must see to their financial, medical or educational support after your death, there are special considerations--especially if your family member will need to rely on Medicaid or other public assistance in the years to come.
Many public assistance programs do not allow recipients to have much in the way of assets. A special needs trust will allow for extra subsistence and support, but only if the funds are structured in such a way that they are not given directly to the person with the disability. It's important to have an experienced estate planner handle a special needs trust to ensure it won't impair any future ability to receive health care or other services.
Even if you already have such a special needs trust, as a child with a disability grows to adulthood, they may be more or less capable of self-support than was believed when you first established the trust. You will want to review and change a special needs trust if you find that your child will need additional support in the future.
There are many DIY estate planning tools on the market, but be aware that the wrong wording in a will or trust can significantly alter who gets your assets and how they are taxed after your death. You must also make certain that all of your beneficiaries line up on your paperwork, so that you aren't bequeathing your savings account to one person on your signed bank forms and giving the same account to a different beneficiary in your will or last testament. This sort of confusion can also be eliminated by having a professional go over all of your policies and accounts to make sure everything is in sync.
To learn more, contact a law firm like Donald B Linsky & Associate Pa