Seven Major Life Events That Should Prompt Georgia Residents to Prepare or Update Their Estate Plans

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Posted on February 19, 2024

Estate planning is a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of managing your financial and legal wellness. As you know, estate planning involves creating a plan for the distribution of your assets, property, and wealth after your passing. Comprehensive estate planning should also include making provisions for your healthcare and decision-making in case of incapacitation. An experienced Atlanta estate planning lawyer can provide guidance and assistance in developing a comprehensive estate plan that takes into account your unique circumstances and goals.

There’s never a “wrong” time to prepare or review your estate plan in Georgia. Though estate planning is commonly considered something that only older individuals need to think about, young families in Georgia also benefit from having an estate plan in place. 

Several major life events should prompt estate planning to ensure that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are taken care of. In this article, we look at seven major life events that should prompt you to prepare or review your estate plan. Let’s get started!

Marriage or Divorce

Marriage is a significant life event that impacts the disposition of your estate, even if you do not have an estate plan. If you die without a will or trust, Georgia intestacy law gives at least a portion of your estate to your spouse. Creating or updating your estate plan after getting married can ensure that your spouse is taken care of and inherits your assets according to your wishes. 

A comprehensive estate plan can also take into account the birth of children and the acquisition of additional assets, making the time shortly after marriage an ideal time to have your estate plan prepared. Further, estate planning can ensure your and your spouse’s estate plans are aligned. Conversely, divorce also has implications for your estate plan, as you may want to revise beneficiary designations and consider changes to powers of attorney and healthcare directives. Any time your marital status changes, you should strongly consider reviewing and updating your estate plan.

Birth or Adoption of a Child

Like marriage, the birth or adoption of a child is an ideal time to create or update your estate plan. If you already have a comprehensive estate plan, your documents may include provisions for your children. You should, of course, review these documents with your estate planning attorney to confirm everything is as you wish. Further, you should appoint a guardian for your child. The birth or adoption of a child is a joyous occasion and is also an ideal time to create or update your estate plan. 

Retirement

The first time many people begin thinking about their estate plan is upon retirement. Because retirement ushers in many changes (income, lifestyle, healthcare needs), retirement is an ideal time to create or update your estate plan. Your estate plan should align with your financial and lifestyle goals in retirement. In addition to revising your will, updating your trust, and updating beneficiary designations, you may also wish to consider long-term care insurance. Further, you may consider certain irrevocable trusts to pass assets you will not need in retirement to your beneficiaries so that they can enjoy their inheritance earlier in life. If you anticipate being subject to the estate tax, these trusts also move assets out of your estate, thereby lowering or removing your potential estate tax burden.

Death of a Loved One

If you are like me, the death of a loved one was your first introduction to the importance of estate planning. The death of a spouse, parent, or other loved one is emotionally challenging, but it’s also a time when estate planning becomes critical. If your loved one had a comprehensive estate plan, you’ve hopefully seen first-hand how relatively easy the disposition of their estate was. If your loved one did not have a comprehensive estate plan (or had a flawed or incomplete estate plan), you’ve likely suffered the stress and frustration of dealing with probate. Either way, the death of a loved one is a stark reminder to create or update your estate plan. Further, if you inherit property or assets from a loved one, you may experience a change in your financial situation, which is always a good time to create or update your estate plan. 

Change in Financial Situation

As suggested above, a change in your financial situation is an ideal time to create or update your estate plan. Positive changes in your financial situation, such as receiving a significant inheritance, selling a business, or winning the lottery, have a profound impact on your estate plan. You may have the means to leave more to your beneficiaries, to name new beneficiaries, or to leave more to charity. Further, without estate tax planning, your estate may also be subject to the estate tax. Negative changes in your financial situation should also influence a review of your estate plan, as you may wish to reallocate your remaining assets amongst your beneficiaries. It’s important to review your estate plan to consider how these changes in your financial situation may affect your overall financial picture and make adjustments accordingly.

Relocation to Another State

Whether you moved to Georgia from another state or are planning to move out of state, reviewing your estate plan upon relocation is crucial. Estate planning laws vary from state to state, and what may have been valid in the state your documents were created may not be valid in your new state. With a will-based estate plan, often the entire estate plan will need to be recreated to comply with your new resident state’s laws. For clients who plan to relocate, we often recommend revocable living trust-based estate planning. While the pour-over will and powers of attorney will need to be updated in the new state, the primary estate planning document – the revocable living trust – likely will not. This significantly reduces the cost of maintaining effective estate planning despite moving across state lines. 

Changes in Health

Finally, changes in your health, such as a diagnosis of a chronic illness or a debilitating condition, should prompt the creation or review of your estate plan. It is doubly important to prepare estate planning documents quickly if you are at risk of becoming incapacitated, as you may lose the legal capacity to create or update your estate plan. When you suffer a change in health, you should pay particular attention to creating or updating advanced healthcare directives, appointing a healthcare proxy, and ensuring that your loved ones are aware of your medical wishes.

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of managing your financial and legal affairs. While a comprehensive estate plan can be drafted to account for many changes in life, these seven major life events should prompt you to create or review your estate plan. Whether it’s getting married, having a child, retiring, experiencing a loss, facing a change in your financial situation, relocating, or dealing with changes in health, estate planning can provide you with peace of mind that your wishes will be honored and your loved ones will be taken care of. 

If you have recently experienced any of these major life events, contact Trace Brooks Law at (404) 492-9559 to speak with an experienced Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer and learn more about an estate plan that is right for you and your family.

Life Event Reason to Create or Update Estate Plan
Marriage or Divorce Ensure spouse is taken care of and inherits assets according to your wishes; revise beneficiary designations; consider changes to powers of attorney and healthcare directives
Birth or Adoption of a Child Review and confirm provisions for children in your estate plan; appoint a guardian for your child
Retirement Align estate plan with financial and lifestyle goals in retirement; revise will, update trust, and beneficiary designations; consider long-term care insurance
Death of a Loved One Reminder to create or update estate plan; change in financial situation due to inheritance
Change in Financial Situation Leave more to beneficiaries, name new beneficiaries, leave more to charity; adjust estate plan according to changes in financial situation
Relocation to Another State Review and recreate estate plan to comply with new resident state’s laws; consider revocable living trust-based estate planning
Changes in Health Prompt creation or review of estate plan; pay particular attention to advanced healthcare directives and appointing a healthcare proxy

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