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Estate Planning is Not a One-Time Process

Estate Planning is Not a One-Time Process - Major Life Changes Need to be Addressed

by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. 7.5.24

Estate Planning Rhode Island
Attorney RJ Connelly III

"Estate planning is not just about organizing your assets; it is a comprehensive strategy for preserving your legacy and ensuring your family's future harmony," said professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Regardless of where you are in life, whether just starting your career, enjoying retirement, or somewhere in between, estate planning is a crucial step that should never be overlooked. It involves taking control of your life's story, even when you can no longer articulate it yourself."

"Through a series of legal documents, estate planning allows you to dictate how your assets are managed, who benefits from them, and who can make decisions on your behalf if you cannot," continued Attorney Connelly. "Future planning is key to securing peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Once you have your estate plan in place, it's important to remember that it's not a one-and-done task. We recommend you regularly review and update your estate plan every three to five years, especially after major life changes."

Updating Estate Plans

As you prepare for your review process, it is important to ensure that your intentions remain consistent, that you have included the appropriate individuals, and that any significant life changes are accurately reflected. Here are some common reasons why you might want to make changes to your estate plan:

Beneficiaries Often Change

When planning your estate, consider unexpected situations that may arise. For instance, if one of your chosen beneficiaries passes away before you, it can create complications in the distribution of your estate and may even lead to legal disputes. Further, changes in your trusted relationships or personal circumstances may necessitate updates to your estate plan to reflect your current wishes accurately.

Failing to keep your designations current can result in your estate going into probate, potentially allowing the wrong individuals to access your assets. Therefore, it's critical to regularly review and update the designations and contact information for your fiduciaries and beneficiaries to safeguard the intended distribution of your estate.

A Changing Family

Remembering that family structures can change significantly as time passes is important. Over the years, new family members may join through births, adoptions, or marriages, while others might reach adulthood or become ready for additional responsibilities. Each of these events can have implications for estate planning. For instance, the birth of a child might prompt the need for a trust instead of a will, while adding a stepchild might require adjustments to estate plans. Similarly, reaching adulthood might warrant new legal documents to allow parents to make decisions for their grown children.

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Grandchildren require new strategies

As grandchildren enter the picture, estate planning becomes more complex. An individual might need to consider various strategies to ensure the well-being of their grandchildren, such as setting up irrevocable life insurance trusts.

Marriages and divorces also have legal ramifications on estate planning. When individuals get married, their assets and beneficiaries often become intertwined, necessitating updates to their estate plans. Divorces require careful untangling of financial obligations and adjustments to wills, fiduciaries, and powers of attorney.

Updating estate plans to reflect changing family dynamics is essential for protecting the well-being of those we care about.

Moving Out of State

If you've retired and moved from Rhode Island to another state, it's crucial to carefully review and update your estate plan to ensure it complies with your new state's laws. Several important documents may need to be revised:

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Wills: Wills written in another state could pose legal issues because of state laws, especially regarding marital property and executorship differences.

Power of attorney/advance medical directives: Different state laws concerning advanced healthcare directives may require updates to prevent any confusion in a medical emergency.

Beneficiary designations: While insurance beneficiary designations typically apply across states, confirming that beneficiary contact information is up to date after your move is important. You can avoid legal complications by updating your estate planning documents when you establish residency in a new state.

Family Inheritances

If you receive an inheritance, you need to be aware of the potential legal and financial complexities that may arise. Updating your estate plan to mitigate unexpected taxes and costs associated with the inherited assets is critical.

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There may be financial complexities that arise

If you inherit a property, you'll need to decide whether to live in it, sell it, or rent it out. Remember that the property's ownership or sale becomes part of your estate, necessitating updates to your legal documents.

If you sell inherited assets, such as real estate or stocks, be prepared to address potential tax implications. This includes calculating taxes based on the difference between the asset's market value at the original owner's passing and the selling price.

If you become the beneficiary of a retirement fund from someone other than a spouse, you must consider the legal and tax implications of managing the funds.

You Buy a New Home

When purchasing a family home intended to be passed down to future generations, updating estate planning documents is crucial. Upon acquiring substantial real estate, it's important to consider making several significant changes.

Estate Planning Rhode Island
A new home purchase requires updates

Firstly, obtaining a life insurance policy to cover the mortgage is essential if the policyholder passes away. This ensures the surviving spouse won't be burdened with hefty mortgage payments.

Secondly, update guardian information. Designating a guardian who can reside in the home with minor children in the event of the parent's passing can maintain continuity for the children within their school district and the family home.

Additionally, some states may have tax implications when dividing the home's value among children and other beneficiaries. Moreover, if one child desires to inherit the house while others do not, legal expenses might be incurred in granting sole ownership to one child.

Without the appropriate estate planning documents, there is a risk of someone selling the family home contrary to the deceased's wishes or sparking familial discord over the residence.

An Unexpected Illness

In the face of a progressive or terminal illness, individuals are confronted with the unpredictable nature of health. During these trying circumstances, one must update one's estate plan before incapacitation occurs. Establishing advanced health care directives and designating a medical power of attorney is advisable.

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Individuals with dementia may need to demonstrate mental competence before modifying their will or other estate planning documents. In the unfortunate event of a terminal illness, time may become a limiting factor in communicating final wishes. Therefore, ensuring all aspects of estate planning are in order is essential.

The Bottom Line

Estate planning is a vital process that involves making a comprehensive plan for managing and distributing your assets after your passing. This includes ensuring that your loved ones are provided for and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Estate planning also involves strategies to minimize the tax impact on your heirs and to avoid potential complications associated with the probate process.

"The significance of estate planning cannot be overstated as it is a critical step in safeguarding your legacy and loved ones," said Attorney Connelly. "Professional guidance is indispensable when navigating the complexities of estate planning. Consider contacting Connelly Law for comprehensive assistance in creating an estate plan that provides peace of mind, knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected."

Estate Planning Rhode Island

Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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