People in New Jersey are typically aware of the need for addressing end-of-life matters. This process usually includes writing wills, deciding on powers of attorney and choosing guardianships. Unfortunately, however, people often make the mistake of asking a lawyer to help with drafting estate planning documents and then never reviewing the plan again.
The problem with this approach is that people’s lives often change. This is particularly true when a relatively young person or couple begins the process of drafting estate planning documents. But it also happens even to older people. These changes include divorce, death of a spouse, health problems, and the fact that one’s children may marry, divorce and remarry. The composition of the family changes and so does its needs. If the estate plan does not reflect these changes, not only will the intentions of the deceased not be carried out, but family relationships may be harmed.
Practically speaking, this means that people with an estate plan should review their circumstances regularly. This is particularly true after a significant life change. For example, if a family member becomes disabled, it may become necessary to establish a special needs trust rather than adding to a bequest in a will. Similarly, if an heir develops an addiction or mental health issues, it may be necessary to appoint a guardian who can oversee the disbursement of an inheritance.
Individuals and families may benefit from speaking with an experienced lawyer about estate planning and making regular updates to pertinent documents. The legal advice may help families minimize tensions and conflicts that can follow after someone’s death.