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Can I Change My Estate Plan if My Circumstances Change?

Posted by Joel Beck | Oct 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and what may have seemed like the perfect estate plan a few years ago may not serve your current needs or circumstances. If you're wondering whether you can change your estate plan when your situation changes, the simple answer is yes. Let's dive deeper into the how and why of it.

Why You Might Need to Update Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan is not a static document; it's intended to evolve with you as your life changes. Significant life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the sale of a business, are compelling reasons to revisit your estate plan. Financial ups and downs, changes in the law, or shifts in your personal priorities may also necessitate updates. These events could change who you want to benefit from your estate or how you want to divide your assets.

If your estate plan is outdated, it may not accurately reflect your current wishes and could lead to disputes or complications for your heirs. In the worst-case scenario, your assets may not be distributed in the way you intended, causing unintended hardship for your loved ones.

How to Go About Changing Your Estate Plan

The process of updating your estate plan largely depends on the types of changes you need to make. For minor adjustments to your will, such as changing the beneficiary or executor, you can create an addendum known as a codicil. This document will amend, rather than replace, your existing will. However, it must meet the same legal requirements as the original will, including the presence of witnesses at the time of signing. Because there is a risk that the codicil may come detached from the will and therefore not be effective, many estate planning attorneys recommend against using codicils, and instead recommend signing a completely new will that incorporates the minor changes you intend to make.  This approach may work better to ensure your wishes and known and followed. 

For more significant changes, it is appropriate to draft a new will altogether. It is advisable to consult an estate planning attorney to ensure that the new document is legally sound and reflects your updated circumstances. Revoking the previous will is crucial to avoid any conflicts or contradictions between the two documents.

Special Considerations for Trusts and Other Instruments

Trusts, unlike wills, can be a bit more complicated to alter. The ease of making changes depends on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts can be amended easily, but irrevocable trusts typically cannot be changed without the consent of the beneficiaries, and perhaps the court as well. If you've set up other planning tools like an advance directive for healthcare (Georgia's version of a lilving will and a power of attorney for healthcare) or a durable power of attorney (for finances), these documents should also be revisited and revised as needed.

If your estate plan includes more complex instruments, like family partnerships or charitable trusts, adjustments can require specialized legal advice. Again, the key is to consult an estate planning attorney familiar with Georgia law to make sure your new plan is both effective and legally binding.

The Importance of Regular Reviews

We recommend making it a habit to review your estate plan periodically or after significant life events to make sure it aligns with your current needs and wishes. Even if nothing major has happened, laws and regulations governing estates can change, and your plan might need adjustments to comply with new legal requirements.

How Peach State Wills & Trusts Can Help You

At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we're more than just document drafters; we're your partners in planning your estate for every stage of life. We listen carefully to understand your specific needs, assets, and family dynamics, and then tailor your estate plan to align seamlessly with your circumstances and objectives. From drafting wills and setting up trusts to creating advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney, we offer a comprehensive approach to ensure your peace of mind. Our knowledge in Georgia estate law enables us to navigate complex issues with ease, providing you with a clear, effective, and legally sound estate plan. Whether you're making minor adjustments to an existing plan or starting anew due to significant life changes, we're here to guide you every step of the way, making the process as seamless and stress-free as possible.

Ready to Update Your Estate Plan?

Life doesn't stand still, and neither should your estate plan. Whether it's welcoming a new family member, undergoing a divorce, or experiencing any other significant life change, make sure your estate plan reflects your current circumstances and wishes. Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for life's evolving stages in Georgia today. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached.

About the Author

Joel Beck

Joel Beck founded The Beck Law Firm, LLC in 2007. His firm focused on business law and estate planning needs of clients, two areas that he was drawn to based upon personal and business experiences in his life, including a ten-year career at NASD (now known as FINRA).


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