The good news is that you created an estate plan. You took the step, signed the documents and proved yourself more responsible than roughly two-thirds of American adults. The bad news? Life is full of changes.

Many of the changes in your life may weaken your estate plan. They may invalidate certain parts, render it vulnerable to courtroom challenges or send your assets to people you’d no longer want to receive those assets. Creating your estate plan is the first step. The next step is keeping it up to date.

Any significant change may be cause for an update

Your estate plan should reflect your life and values. You want it to account for your assets, of course, but you also want it to reflect the way you feel about your family. As a result, you may want to update your estate plan anytime there’s a significant change to your assets, family or wishes, such as:

  • Your relocation to a new state, placing your assets under new state laws
  • A marriage or divorce that may impact your beneficiaries
  • The births or deaths of family members
  • Someone becomes incapacitated and requires long-term care
  • The value of your estate dramatically increases or decreases
  • Your purchase or sale of a business
  • Changes to the tax or estate laws
  • Your desire to leave a charitable legacy
  • Outdated beneficiary designations on retirement and insurance plans
  • The appointed executor no longer wants the responsibility

Changes such as these won’t necessarily break your estate plan, but they can limit its effectiveness. Especially if they lead to confusion or controversy. You may have created your estate plan partially to spare your loved ones from the rigors of probate court, but they may face a long probate, anyway, if you let your plan age unattended.

Give it a fresh coat of paint

Often, the hardest part of creating an estate plan is simply deciding it needs to be done. Many people face a great deal of inertia between their initial thought and the attorney’s office. But once you’ve got an estate plan in place, updating it shouldn’t be as difficult.

In fact, you can even view your life changes as chances to take your estate plan to a higher level. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to look at new options for asset protection and generational wealth transfer. The fact that life changes isn’t really bad news. It’s just life. And it’s what you do with your life that counts.