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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

How Often Do I Need to Update My Estate Planning Documents?

Your will and other estate planning documents should be reviewed when you have a life changing event, like the birth of a child.  But even without big life changes, it’s best to occasionally review your documents as circumstances change and you want to make sure that your estate plan always remains effective and expresses your wishes.

There are two primary reasons for creating an estate plan:

  1. To make sure that your family and loved ones are taken care of following your death, and

  2. To provide clear instructions about what should happen to your estate following your death

If you die without a will or trust, the Virginia courts will apply state intestacy law to distribute your assets.  This is the law. It doesn’t matter what you wanted or promised.  The courts not only decide what happens to your assets, they may also decide what happens to your minor children.  Your will or trust and other estate documents are the most important legal documents you’ll probably ever sign. The goal of good estate planning is to ensure that your assets go to the people that you want to benefit after your death.  Because your life is filled with many changes over the years, your estate planning documents may occasionally need to change and be updated too.

Many people create a will relatively early in life to achieve these goals, because they understand that death can, unfortunately, come at any time… even to young and healthy individuals.  But as you move through adulthood, your life will probably change in ways that impact both the assets that you own as well as the people in your life that you want to benefit. You get married, have children, buy a house, maybe even a vacation home, have grandchildren, have a pension or open retirement accounts… the list goes on and on.  You may have created a basic will at some point, even a do-it-yourself will, without the help of an estate planning attorney.  But as your life changes and assets grow, an attorney with knowledge and expertise in estate planning will help you understand strategic estate planning methods that better fit your situation and provide additional protections and benefits for beneficiaries than simply passing property through a simple will.

What events might prompt my estate planning documents to be updated?

  1. Marriage

  2. Divorce

  3. Birth or adoption of a child

  4. Children reaching the age of majority (18)

  5. Death of a spouse

  6. Death or incapacity of a beneficiary

  7. Buying or selling a primary residence or vacation home

  8. Buying or selling a major asset (boat, plane, collectibles)

  9. A significant change in your estate’s value

  10. Change in your executor, guardians, trustees, agents, or personal representatives

  11. Receipt of an inheritance

  12. Medical needs

  13. Changes to state law

  14. A move to a new state

  15. Starting a new business

  16. Planning for charitable or other organizational contributions

In addition to the list above, everyone should have all their estate documents reviewed before the age of 70 if you have an IRA or 401(k) that requires you to begin taking distributions at the age of 70 ½.

No matter what changes you need to make, the important thing to remember is an outdated will or trust means that the court must abide by your outdated wishes, regardless of the changes in your life or your current wishes.

About Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates provides affordable estate planning services for Virginia families. Our firm understands the intricacies of estate planning and offers a range of services from simple, a la carte pricing for single items to comprehensive offerings that cover a variety of preparations.

For more information about estate planning, our services and packages, contact our office today at 703.938.3510 or visit our website:

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