Estate Planning is indeed an on-going process. It should never be considered a one-and-done event. As our families and needs evolve and change, the focus of the planning will shift over time.
When I ask someone if they’ve got an estate plan in place – the basics being a will, power of attorney and health care directive – often the response is “yes, we took care of that a number of years ago”.
But, what many people don’t realize is that the plan you may have put in place 5 or 10 or 20 years ago most likely won’t meet your needs now. Why? Because as time passes, many changes occur. We change, our families change, our needs change. Nothing stays static. Especially in today’s fast paced, technologically dominated world.
Your Estate Plan Should Address Your Current Situation:
Let’s take a look at a young couple in their 20’s and 30’s, we’ll call them Jack and Diane, In those early years, the estate planning focus is on support for the surviving spouse and young children, typically with a heavy reliance on life insurance. In the event both Jack and Diane die, who will be guardians of their young children and who will manage the money left for their benefit? This is typically done thru the use of minor trusts. In the early stages of growing their assets, there is less of a focus on estate taxes.
Additional Planning Techniques May Be Appropriate:
As Jack and Diane reach their 40’s and 50’s, their estates typically will have grown. Estate and Inheritance taxes may now need to be planned for. Their children are now young adults, perhaps in college. Should Jack and Diane divorce and remarry, blended families raise new issues of how to provide for a second spouse but at the same time protect and preserve something for the children of the first marriage. If this second marriage produces children, that further complicates things.
Seniors Have More Complex Planning Needs:
In the next stage, when Jack and Diane reach their 60’s and 70’s, there is another change in focus. It’s what we call senior estate planning. Issues such as retirement, social security, long term care and various forms of Trust now become important topics of conversation. Asset preservation and wealth transfer may be important. Assisted Living and Long Term Care Insurance or Medicaid may be topics to address. Whatever the issues, our elder law practice is dedicated to providing legal guidance and assistance as our clients grow through the years.