Triggers that it is time to update your estate plan

by Melisa Sloan
7th August 2023

MOST OF US put our estate planning in place and tick it off as done.
However, we need to be mindful that our life changes, and so do our circumstances.
So, it is important that we also review our estate planning documents regularly to ensure that they are still relevant to your circumstances and reflect your current wishes.
Some triggers that it is time to update your estate planning documents are:

You marry or separate

If you have married since you put your current Will in place, it is time to update it as the very act of marriage revokes any Will you have in place unless that Will was put in place in contemplation of your marriage.
Many people are caught out by this little fact and are unaware that their Will is no longer valid.
If you have entered a de facto relationship since putting your Will in place, reviewing whether you wish to make any amendments to your Will and Power of Attorney documents is a good idea.
In instances where you have separated or divorced, it is highly unlikely that you wish for your former spouse to receive your assets or undertake the role of your executor, so it would be prudent to undertake a review and update your estate planning documents.

You have children

Having children should be an immediate trigger to update your Will.
However, I am often surprised by clients who have not updated their Will for 15 or 20 years, and their Will does not make any provision for their children as it was put in place before their birth.

Has someone passed away or become incapacitated?

If the person you listed as your executor or the guardian or your children have died or become incapacitated, it is imperative that you review your Will so that you can list someone else to undertake one of these important roles.
Likewise, if a beneficiary passes away, you should review your Will to ensure that you have made provision for what will happen to their share of your estate.
Prospectively, you may wish to change who will receive the share of your estate they would have received.

A beneficiary can no longer manage their own affairs

The circumstances of a beneficiary you may have listed in your Will may have changed.
They may no longer be able to manage their own affairs, whether through incapacity, addiction, or other personal challenges.
In such instances, it is ideal to review your Will to ascertain how best to make provision for this beneficiary.
It may mean creating a particular vehicle in your Will whereby their inheritance is held in a trust for their benefit and prospectively controlled by your executor or another trusted person.

Have you commenced a new business, established a company, Trust or other structure?

Often, we hold significant assets in businesses, company structures or Trusts.
It is imperative that if you make any changes to these structures or establish any new structures, you review your estate planning.
Implementing or changing one of these structures without looking at your estate planning holistically may leave you exposed and create problems when you are no longer here.

Your Superannuation or Life Insurance arrangements have changed

If you change your superannuation arrangements, it is important to make sure that you have in place a current and valid Binding Death Nomination that provides a direction to the Trustee of your Superannuation Fund as to where you would like your superannuation to be paid at the time of your death.
You should also regularly review your life insurance arrangements to ensure that you are adequately insured and have the appropriate beneficiary on any life insurance policy.

Have you acquired significant assets that you wish to make provision for?

If you have recently acquired assets that you wish to leave to a specific person at the time of your death, you need to make provision for this in your Will.
Additionally, if you have recently sold a particular asset that you had bequeathed to someone in your Will, it is a good idea to update your Will to take account of this asset no longer being part of your asset pool and perhaps making provision of an alternate asset to that specific beneficiary.
By regularly reviewing your estate planning documents, you can easily identify any amendments that may be required and action these so that they are up to date and reflective of your current wishes.

Melisa Sloan is an Estate Planning and Property Lawyer based in Park Orchards. For more information, go to: madisonsloanlawyers.com.au.