Losing a loved one is never easy. Even if you knew that the end was near because they had fought a long-lasting terminal illness, grief is an overwhelming experience.
If their death was sudden, perhaps because of the car crash or a heart attack, you may have left things unsaid that weigh heavily on your mind. Unexpected deaths often also mean that the deceased person failed to say everything they wanted to or make their wishes known.
Realizing that your parent died with a 40-year-old estate plan or no will at all can be a painful but potent reminder of the importance of creating and updating your own estate plan.
You don’t want to leave your legacy at risk
When you have outdated estate documents, people could challenge them in court as undermine your wishes. The inclusion of a former spouse or a deceased family member in your estate plan could lead to scrutiny, as could other instructions that no longer reflect your family circumstances or financial situation.
Inaccurate and outdated estate documents are more vulnerable to challenges. They can also lead to an outcome that you would not like, such as your ex-spouse receiving some of your property when you die.
Any significant changes to your personal holdings or your family circumstances typically warrant an estate plan update. Many adults will find that it is a good idea to review their estate plan every few years as a matter of course in case subtle changes might undermine the efficacy of the plan.
What happens if someone challenges your documents?
When someone dies without an estate plan or the courts side with someone challenging a will, the probate court may need to apply intestate succession laws to your property. These laws give close family members like spouses and children the strongest right to inherit property and give virtually no protection to those who are not immediate family members.
In some cases, a challenge against estate documents may lead to the court reverting them back to earlier versions of the same documents. In either case, chances are good that those decisions would be contrary to your true intent for your property after you die.
Knowing when to update your estate plan can help you ensure that you retain control over your legacy.