Is it time to take a new look at your estate plan?

A lot of thought goes into an estate plan, but just one life change, whether it is major or seemingly minor, can render an estate plan out of date.

Californians of all ages set up estate plans. For example, a married couple in their 30s may want to select potential guardians for their children and put financial safety nets in place for the little ones. A couple near retirement may want to budget for the next 20 to 30 years and ensure that quality long-term care is affordable should it become necessary. Someone entering into a second or third marriage might want to ensure that certain assets will pass on to his or her children from a prior relationship, no matter what.

These types of estate plans make sense at the time they are made. However, life changes. What made sense five years ago might not now. Could it be time to revisit an estate plan?

It has not been looked at since being drawn up

If someone created an estate plan years ago and has not looked at it since, odds are that it needs revamping. This can be true even if the person's life seems much the same-no interstate moves (no moves, period) and the same number of children and grandchildren. For one thing, laws do not stay the same. There may be better trust options available now, or a tax-savings trust may have become unworkable.

Also, small life changes have the propensity to add up. So, revisiting an estate plan at least every few years is a wise move.

A life change has occurred

Even something seemingly minor such as a new job can be worthy of needing to update an estate plan. The life insurance with the job may be different, or the job comes with a pay raise that enables a person to fulfill some hoped-for estate planning goals. It is also possible that at least one person named as a beneficiary has died.

Notable events that all but require a new look at estate plans include:

· Significant change in estate's worth

· Divorce, marriage or remarriage (perhaps even an adult child's)

· A new child or grandchild

· Retirement

· Health concerns

· Moving, especially to a different state

· Acquiring or giving up notable assets

· Death of a beneficiary

· Big job changes

· Changes in the lives of children's prospective guardians

To discuss the last item further, everyone's life changes. Suppose that Couple A picked Couple B to serve as their children's guardians. Couple B readily agreed, but in the past five years since agreeing, moved across the country and divorced. Or maybe they have become ultra-religious (or abandoned religion). Any one of these changes could mean that Couple A would rather seek another set of guardians.

Setting up an effective estate plan in California requires that many areas be touched on. An attorney can help with that and with updating a plan.