One Time is Not Enough:  Why You Need to Update Your Estate Plan






Many people sign a will and assume they never need to look at it again. As lawyers, we prepare wills that are flexible and deal with multiple possible (even if unlikely) scenarios, but sometimes an unanticipated change and an outdated will conspire to cause great difficulties for surviving family members. What follows is a perfect example we recently dealt with that illustrates why wills need to be periodically reviewed.

The deceased husband, a New Jersey resident, signed his will in 1998. It provided that an amount equal to the federal estate tax exemption (then $625,000) would pass to a trust for the benefit of his wife and children, and the rest of the estate would pass to his wife outright. This was typical estate tax planning at the time, and would have caused no federal or state estate tax at the husband’s death if his wife survived him. For a while, that held true. Even as the federal estate tax exemption increased to higher amounts and the state estate tax exemption increased only to $675,000 (such as in New Jersey), there would have been only a small amount of state estate tax.

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