Be sure to update your estate plan when your finances change

In the recent economic downturn, many homes lost considerable value and stock portfolios gyrated. If this is the case for you, then you should consider reviewing your estate plan.

If your will divides your estate into percentages for beneficiaries, then changes in value won’t affect the proportions by which your estate is distributed. However, if you have included specific bequests in your will, then a rise or fall in your net worth could have significant consequences. For example, if your estate plan gives $50,000 to your favorite charity and the rest of your estate to your children, a reduction in the value of your estate could mean your children won’t get as much as you intended.

A change in the value of your assets could also affect your estate plan if you intend to treat your children equally by giving them assets of equal value. For example, suppose a person’s will gives a house worth $300,000 to a daughter and a stock portfolio worth $300,000 to a son. If the value of either the house or the portfolio increases or decreases significantly in value, the children will no longer receive equal gifts.

It’s also important to update your estate plan if the overall nature of your assets has changed. For example, if you sold stock and bought real estate instead, this could affect the distributions to your heirs.

Finally, if the value of your estate has risen significantly, it’s important to reassess whether you should take additional steps to reduce estate taxes.

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