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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Q: How do I know if I need to update my estate plan?

As a new year– and a new decade–recently began, many people made New Year’s resolutions to improve their lives. Quitting unhealthy habits like smoking, or adopting healthy habits like eating well and exercising are common resolutions–but they require a long-term commitment and real effort by the resolution-maker. Sometimes with frustrating or less than optimal results.

But New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys know of one resolution that can bring peace of mind, may reduce stress, and requires little effort by the maker–creating or updating your estate plan.

If you are an adult and do not have a last will and testament, commonly referred to as a will, you should make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to get your affairs in order. People commonly think that a will is only something for the wealthy, but that’s not the case—every adult and their loved ones– may benefit from having a will and the other documents that typically are part of a comprehensive estate plan. If you have young children, the only way to ensure your wishes regarding whom will raise your children if you die before they’re adults is by naming legal guardians in a will.

Even if you have an estate plan, it’s a good habit to review it annually or more often, if necessary, to see if it needs modification.

Why would I need to modify my estate plan?

There are several reasons to modify an estate plan, including:

  • A change in family composition: If marriage, divorce, death, or the birth of additional children or grandchildren has happened since your last estate plan, these big milestones often trigger the need for estate plan changes to add—or remove—people from the plan.
  • Planning for incapacity: Do you have powers of attorney in effect so trusted agents chosen by you can handle your financial and medical affairs if you become incapacitated by illness, injury, or an accident? If you do have them, are you still comfortable with the person or persons you appointed or should they be changed?
  • Vulnerable beneficiaries: Does anyone who will benefit from your estate need a trusted financial advisor to manage the money for them? This may be the case for minors, young adults, immature or irresponsible adults or spendthrifts.
  • New laws: If the estate and/or tax laws have changed since your last estate plan or if you’ve moved to a new state, your estate plan may need modification. So, if it’s been a while or if you are unsure whether any changes of law warrant a modification of your estate plan, reaching out to a skilled estate planning attorney should be on your to do list for 2020.

If you need help with an initial estate plan or with modifying existing plan, the skilled estate planning attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.