In general, it’s prudent to review your estate planning documents every three to five years. This catches changes in your life, the law, and your estate planning attorney’s experience. Unless there have been major changes in your life or tax law, there will probably not be any changes necessary.
However, if you experience a significant life event such as marriage or divorce, it is imperative that you update your estate plan right away. Celebrities, Brittany Murphy (Clueless) and Gary Coleman (Different Strokes) make the case for updating.
Brittany Murphy had an estate plan in place, naming her mother as her sole beneficiary. She, then, got married and updated her estate plan. Her mother remained as her sole beneficiary and she acknowledged her marriage and stated that she intentionally was not providing for her husband.
Murphy died suddenly (and at a young age) and her plan worked. Her mother receives all of her assets. No mess.
Note: Apparently, Murphy and her husband did not have any marital community property assets.
In contrast, Gary Coleman’s estate plan was not updated after his divorce and subsequent common-law marriage to his ex-wife. In addition, there are multiple wills and several parties are fighting to prove that the will that benefits him or her is valid.
Meanwhile, Coleman’s ashes sit in a lawyer’s office until the court decides who has authority to take them. It’s a complete mess. This is an example of an estate plan that didn’t work because it wasn’t properly updated.
If you have any questions about estate planning and would like to speak with an attorney in San Diego, please call my office at 858-792-5988.