You can’t paint with a broad brush when it comes to estate planning because the anatomy of each plan can vary so widely. Depending on the specifics of your assets, your age, your individual objectives, and the dynamic of your family there is a very wide range of possibilities. But it is safe to say that those who feel as though their estates are of sufficient size and complexity to warrant professional planning advice are going to need to review their estate plans regularly.
What could be called “reactive” estate plan reviews can become necessary due to changes in your personal life or as a result of a change in market conditions or tax laws. As we have recently seen all over the news, a new tax relief bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president in the middle of December that impacted the estate tax.
This is a perfect example of an external event that would trigger the need for a reactive estate plan review. The estate tax exclusion has never been as high as the $5 million that it is going to be through 2012, so your existing estate plan was constructed with the expectation of a much lower exclusion. 2011 is the year when you definitely want to make an appointment with your estate planning attorney to evaluate what this new tax law means to you.
Aside from reacting to a specific personal life event or societal change, estate plan reviews should be scheduled as a matter of course. In the broader context the facts you have to work with and the immediacy of your objectives will change significantly as you enter different stages of life. And if your estate is comprised at least partially of volatile assets you will want to revisit the plan much more regularly in the same manner that you would tend to any portfolio of investments.