You might be feeling a sense of accomplishment after executing a will, trust, powers of attorney, and other documents as part of your Virginia estate plan, and your satisfaction is well-deserved. By stating your intentions regarding the arrangement, you maintain control over what happens to you and your assets upon death or incapacity.
However, you can’t rest too easy by thinking your task is complete. Estate planning should be considered an ongoing process, with periodic reviews and adjustments as necessary to reflect changes in your life. A Virginia estate planning attorney can assist when you need to handle modifications, but you should note a few reasons that indicate it’s time to re-evaluate.
- Marriage or Divorce: If you get married after executing the documents, you’ll certainly want to include your spouse in your estate plan. Divorce triggers Virginia’s statute on revocation of the will, which treats your ex-spouse as having predeceased you. Any specific bequests are eliminated, but these assets still pass according to other provisions of the will – which may be contrary to your wishes.
- Increased Net Worth: A will is the foundation of any effective estate plan, but it may not be enough if the value of your assets reaches a certain level. You might want to consider a revocable or irrevocable trust to take advantage of favorable tax treatment, and it may be appropriate to implement a plan for gifting during your lifetime.
- Changes in the Law: Lawmakers are constantly enacted new measures that have a direct or indirect impact on your estate plan. Most recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) increased the estate tax exemption by more than double the amount that was in effect in 2018. For 2020, you can shield a considerable portion from estate taxes at death – up to $11.58 million as an individual or $23.16 for married couples.
- Modify Provisions Regarding Beneficiaries: There are multiple reasons you might want to make changes to how you handle beneficiaries in your estate plan. For instance:
- If children are well-off financially, you may want to consider making bequests to grandchildren. There could be advantages to implementing a generation-skipping arrangement.
- You may need to include a trust with spendthrift provisions for any beneficiaries with questionable spending habits.
- When your relationship with a beneficiary has soured, you might want to remove that person from your estate plan entirely.
- Changes to Who You Put in Charge: If the executor of your will or a trustee have passed away, or the appointment is no longer appropriate, you should address the situation right away. Even if you already named a successor, it’s important to review and make the adjustments. This tip also applies to anyone you may have appointed as agent under Virginia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act.
- Passage of Time: Regardless of any of the factors listed above, you should make a point to review your estate plan from time to time. You might have forgotten about a provision and changed your mind in recent years, and going over the documentation is a good reminder. One rule of thumb is to take a look every three to five years to ensure your estate plan still conforms to your intentions.
Reach Out to a Virginia Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information on updating your estate plan, please contact Shannon & Associates, P.C. to set up a consultation at our offices in Chesapeake or Suffolk, VA. Our Virginia estate planning attorneys can advise you on factors to consider, and we’ll guide you through the process of modifying your will, trust, powers