May 26th, 2020

Seven Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan

If the global pandemic has encouraged you to reflect on your life and look forward to a fresh start post-quarantine, perhaps it should also prompt you to take a look at your estate plan. To ensure the plan you created still accomplishes your goals, consider these top seven reasons to update your estate plan and protect your legacy and loved ones:

  1. Major Life Events to You or Others in Your Plan – Birth, death/disability, marriage or divorce. If you, or anyone who you consider an integral part of your plan, has experienced any of these major events, you should review the impacts these events on your personal estate plan.
  2. Children Becoming Adults – If your children are adults, there is no longer a need for you to nominate anyone as a Guardian of them. Furthermore, depending on their maturity and other factors, you may consider giving their inheritances to them outright rather than setting up trusts. Finally, because they are adults, they are candidates to be your Executor and you may consider giving them that responsibility.
  3. Moving to Another State – If you move to another state, your new home state will likely consider your legal documents to be valid. However, the laws of that new state may impact your personal estate plan differently. Speak to a lawyer in your new home state about any potential changes.
  4. Substantial Increase or Decrease in Assets – If you won the lottery or received a significant inheritance, you may reconsider how you would like your assets to be distributed upon your death. If you filed for bankruptcy, you may want to remove some gifts that you had previously included in your personal estate plan.
  5. Changes in the Law – The federal estate tax laws have changed significantly over the past decade. Pennsylvania enacted substantial changes to the Power of Attorney laws in 2014. In 2018, Pennsylvania enacted new laws regarding organ donation that may have an impact on your Advance Health Care Directives or Living Wills. Plus, the SECURE Act passed in late 2019 caused major changes to the distribution of IRAs. Review the impact of these new laws on your personal estate plan.
  6. Passage of Time – If more than five years have passed since you last updated your personal estate plan, your perspective on life may have changed. Review the plan as a reminder to yourself.
  7. Starting, Buying or Selling a Business – Tax considerations, buy-sell agreements, succession plans, and irrevocable life insurance trusts… are these right for you? Discuss your business goals and plans to ensure your business can live on if you cannot.

If you are reading this article and do not have an estate plan, strongly consider speaking to an attorney. Without a will, Pennsylvania law dictates how your assets will be distributed, and it may not be what you expect. Additionally, a Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive are essential documents for all adults, regardless of net worth.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic did not make the top seven reasons to update your estate plan, it has certainly made the topic top of mind.


R. Nicholas Nanovic serves as Chair of Gross McGinley’s Wills, Trusts and Estates Group, providing leadership in estate planning and estate administration matters.