3 questions to ask when updating your estate plans

Conventional wisdom suggests that we review our estate plans every three to five years. If you are like me, reviewing your estate plans may stay on your “to do” list far longer than five years. It often takes an external event—such as the prospect of summer travel—to inspire us to dust off our estate planning documents and tackle this project.

As I think about updating my own long-term plans, here are three questions I am asking myself:

1.  What do I need to review?

When you undertake a review of your estate plans, an obvious place to start is with your will or living trust, healthcare and financial powers of attorney, and your advance medical directive (living will). You also should review beneficiary designation forms for any individual retirement accounts (IRA), 401(k) or 403(b) plans, and life insurance policies that you hold. In addition, it may help to inventory other assets, such as taxable brokerage accounts, real estate, and valuable personal property for which you would like to make provisions.

2.  What external events impact my estate plans?

Life happens. On a personal level, babies are born, marriages begin and end, jobs change, people move to different states, loved ones pass away. Any of these events can result in significant changes to how you structure your estate plans. From a broader perspective, Congress regularly amends, repeals and enacts laws that affect estate planning. Evaluate how your life circumstances impact the plans you have in place and talk with your attorney about how best to achieve your goals under current federal and state laws.

3.  Do my plans support my charitable priorities?

The process of reviewing your estate plans invites you to think deeply about the people, issues and organizations that are most important to you. As you review your plans, consider whether you want to: make a gift to a charity like Duke from your estate; name a charity as a beneficiary of your will, a retirement plan or IRA; or establish a life income gift. This part of estate planning can be exciting as you envision how you can make a positive difference in the world through charitable giving.

For further information about preparing your will, be sure to check out our previous article, Top 5 reasons to review your will .

If you would like to talk about creative ways to support Duke through your estate plans, contact a member of our team. We are here to help you!

TAGS: Living trusts bequests retirement planning

About the author

Gift Planning


Duke University’s Office of Gift Planning specializes in charitable gift planning for estates, charitable trusts and annuities, and other complex current and future gift plans.

For more information, please contact the Duke University Office of Gift Planning at 919-681-0464 or giftplanning@duke.edu.