By: Melissa A. Gleick

As you move through different life stages, chances are that your estate planning needs will evolve as well.  As your life goals and familial circumstances change, they will need to be incorporated into your estate plan. Estate planning is not a one time endeavor.  The following guide will help you understand when you need an estate plan, and when it’s time to review your existing plan with an estate planning attorney.



• A durable power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA release and living will enable you to designate who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated

• Create a will to control who will inherit your assets, and consider a trust for minor beneficiaries



• Consider whether a prenuptial agreement is appropriate. Factors may include children from prior relationships, disparity in net worth and expected future inheritances



• Update your durable power of attorney, health care proxy and HIPAA release to name your spouse

• Create a revocable living trust for marital estate tax planning and update beneficiary designations if you want to name your spouse as beneficiary of your 401(k)/retirement plans, life insurance policies and pension

• Look into life insurance to ensure each other’s financial security



• Update your will to nominate a guardian/conservator for your minor children

• Create a revocable trust, or amend your existing trust, to ensure your children’s inheritance is properly managed

• Establish an emergency guardianship proxy that nominates a guardian to care for your child if both parents are incapacitated

• Review/increase your life insurance coverage

• If you have a special needs child, be sure to include special needs trusts in your plan

• Update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement plans, being sure to name your trust(s) and not minor children directly


Starting a business

• Organize your business with the state to separate business and personal liabilities and maximize creditor protection

• Update your estate plan to ensure that the business is disposed of in accordance with your wishes

• Sign a buy-sell agreement with your business partners, if applicable, to establish the rights and obligations of the owners in the event of death, disability or voluntary exit from the business



• Update documents, including beneficiary designations, and revoke durable powers of attorney and health care proxies that name the former spouse

• If you remarry, revise your will and trust documents to reflect the proper beneficiaries


Middle years

• Your trust should be updated as changes occur (e.g., divorce, additional children, changes in financial situation, inheritances or increase in net worth, or death of a beneficiary or trustee)

• Consider purchasing long-term care insurance


Retirement years

• Review your estate plan

• Review designations on your durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and HIPAA release (be sure the people you’ve named are still in your life and willing and able to serve in that role)

• Add provisions to your trust to make distributions to your children or grandchildren, taking into consideration beneficiaries’ creditor exposures or special needs concerns

• Consider charitable gifts

• Consider reducing the size of your estate through gifting or creating an irrevocable life insurance trust or charitable trust

• Evaluate your exposure to long-term care/nursing home costs and consider protective planning to safeguard your estate

• Establish a prepaid funeral arrangement


If you do not have an estate plan or if you have a plan and have reached one of the life stage milestones mentioned above, you should carefully consider contacting an estate planning attorney to get you on track to total asset protection for you and for your loved ones.



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