Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

You met with a lawyer and set up your estate plan to protect yourself in case you become incapacitated and to provide for your family. Many people simply stick the documents in a drawer and forget about them, but doing so can cause results you never intended down the road, because of changes in the law or developments in your life. This article explains when you should review your estate plan to make sure that it will serve its purpose.

You should take out your estate plan and read it again at regular frequencies or when significant life events happen. You should also sit down with your New York estate planning lawyer at least once every three to five years.

Informal Review on Your Own

It can be a smart practice to take a look at your estate plan documents once a year, linked to a particular event to help you remember. You might select your birthday or New Year’s Day. Skim the papers to see if you want to modify any of the terms.

You might have left some stock to a loved one in your living trust, but then you had to sell that stock when you got laid off from your job. You could change your trust agreement to substitute some other asset or delete the item.

If you notice things that you want to modify, you should have a lawyer draft those changes rather than trying to do this yourself as a DIY project. Failing to follow the legal requirements could make your amendments unenforceable.

Formal Review with Your Lawyer

In addition to having your lawyer modify your legal papers when you notice a change that you want to make, it is prudent to meet with your lawyer at regular intervals, like once every three to five years, to discuss how new legislation might affect your documents. The law can change every year, potentially affecting the validity and enforceability of your papers. Sometimes new regulations provide better options for you than the previous rules.

Life Happens

Your estate plan is like a snapshot of your life and relationships at the moment that you signed the documents. As time passes, things happen. People get married and have children. Loved ones die. People fall out with each other. You might have a financial windfall or an economic meltdown. All of these things can affect how you want your things distributed one day when you die.


When you become the parent of a child through birth or adoption, your estate plan should include and reference that child. Many people update their estate plans when their children become adults or approach college age. You might want to add provisions to your papers when you become a grandparent.

Love and Marriage … and Divorce

Estate plans usually need to change when people divorce or end a relationship with someone named in the existing papers. If you marry after setting up your estate plan, you will want to address your new spouse’s claims on your assets. Many people draft pre-nuptial agreements as part of an updated estate plan.

A New York estate planning lawyer can help you set up an estate plan and keep it current for your needs and goals. Contact our team today.

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.