In 2018, the world mourned the loss of the legendary singer Aretha Franklin to pancreatic cancer. What no one expected was the ensuing estate battle that erupted among her family members. With just a handwritten will tucked away in a notebook at her Michigan home, the fate of her assets was left to a jury’s discretion. Instead of having the space to grieve the loss of their beloved mother, Franklin’s sons found themselves embroiled in a lengthy and expensive court battle. The root cause of this dispute? The absence of an official estate plan.

Can you imagine your own family fighting in court over their inheritance? This scenario serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of estate planning and the need to keep it current.

The Consequences of Outdated Estate Plans

It’s disheartening to witness familial disputes in the courtroom, all stemming from outdated estate plans. These disputes often arise because individuals overlook key considerations or fail to reflect their evolving preferences regarding asset distribution. Ultimately, what prevails in these cases is the content documented in the estate plan.

Signs It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan

Here are some indicators that it’s time to revisit your estate plan and ensure it remains up to date:

  1. Elapsed Time: Has it been more than 3-5 years since you last revised your estate plan
  2. Significant Life Events: Have you experienced any major life events, such as marriage, death, divorce, or the arrival of grandchildren?
  3. Health Changes: Have there been any changes in your health since you last updated your plan
  4. Changes in Appointed Representatives: Is the person you named as your personal representative, successor trustee, health care agent, or attorney-in-fact deceased, relocated, or now unable to serve?

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Estate planning is not just about the division of assets; it’s about leaving a lasting legacy for your loved ones. Your estate plan can ensure that your wishes are honored and that your family is spared the emotional and financial burdens of a courtroom battle.

If you find that it’s time to revisit your estate plan, consider scheduling a meeting with a financial professional and an estate planning attorney. Together, you can identify potential gaps and make the necessary updates to ensure that your plans reflect your legacy wishes.