Livens & Reed, PLLC

Estate planning requires an annual checkup for any changes

An estate plan should be given a routine checkup each year. This is done through a meeting or other collaboration between the estate planning professional and the client. This is a procedure that is universally recommended, both here in Texas and in all other jurisdictions.

There are some basic issues to update each year. One is whether the client has acquired any real estate or other substantial assets. These must be titled to be consistent with any trusts or estate planning mechanisms that have already been put into place. Furthermore, the legal professional must know whether there are any new accounts that require beneficiary designations or whether any prior designations have changed.

If a named beneficiary has died in the past year, it is vital to replace or rename the designation appropriately. It is also important to know whether the client's family situation has otherwise changed. Whenever there is a divorce, estate planning documents must be changed to avoid potential catastrophes due to carelessly neglecting to make necessary changes.

The client, for example, may wish to incorporate a new spouse while also protecting the gifts made to the children of a prior marriage. These issues feed into a more general inquiry: does the estate plan still reflect the wishes of the testator? This is always an inquiry to refresh for good measure.

Also, the client should be asked whether each of the appointed estate and trust representatives in the legal instruments are all still acceptable. If not, they should be changed. Additionally, with respect to married couples or others living together, it may be necessary to title real estate and other accounts with the right of survivorship. The attorney will know the proper wording that is appropriate for Texas, or for another state if applicable. In short, estate planning should be kept current to reflect the client's present needs and desires.

Source:, "5 Estate Planning Questions to Ask Clients Annually", Bruce W. Fraser, Aug. 3, 2015

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