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What happens if someone doesn’t update their estate plan?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Estate Planning

Estate planning often requires some very uncomfortable moments. People have to think about what happens to their loved ones when they die and what kind of care they may require if they have some kind of debilitating medical emergency.

Most adults who have taken the time to create an estate plan are happy to finish the process and hope to avoid ruminating on those often morbid concepts again. While those who have an estate plan are undoubtedly better prepared for life’s uncertainties than those who don’t have documents, they may not have the degree of protection that they assume. If it has been many years since they drafted their documents, there are certain issues that could arise. Out-of-date documents can lead to serious complications for a testator, including the three issues outlined below.

Probate challenges

One of the most serious issues related to out-of-date estate planning paperwork is the possibility that it could lead to a contest in probate court. If a beneficiary can convince the courts that the documents are outdated, then the courts might set aside someone’s estate plan and act as though they died without a will. That could drastically change who inherits what property from the estate.

Insufficient support during emergencies

Estate plans are not just about what happens when someone dies. They are also a form of protection for those experiencing personal emergencies. Powers of attorney and advance health care directives can give someone the authority to handle someone’s affairs or make medical decisions on their behalf. They can also provide clarity about the type of support that someone needs or their medical wishes. Out-of-date documents may have terms that no longer reflect someone’s wishes. They might also name agents or healthcare proxies who have died or who no longer have positive relationships with the testator.

Deviations from someone’s legacy wishes

An estate plan can provide instructions about the distribution of someone’s property to specific beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries may include family members, close friends and even charitable organizations. If someone has not updated their estate plan in years, they may include beneficiaries with whom they no longer have a positive relationship. They may also fail to properly address assets that they have since acquired that could be relatively valuable.

Regular updates to estate planning documents help give someone more control over what happens after their death or in the event of an emergency. Updated documents also reduce the likelihood of unnecessary conflict among beneficiaries. As such, taking the time to revisit and update estate planning paperwork occasionally can help a testator achieve specific legacy goals.