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Now is a great time to update estate plans

What big changes happened to your family in 2014? Did you gain a new baby or grandbaby? Did an elderly parent pass away? Did you finally unload a money pit of an “investment property?”

These are the sort of questions wise advisors are asking their clients right now. A new year has begun, and it’s a great time to ask clients if they’ve experienced big changes that affect their estate plans.

As a marketing opportunity for advisors, the turning of the year is pure gold. You can ask clients to consider these questions in newsletters, emails and phone calls. Basically, you’re asking clients to consider whether any of these events might require a change in their estate or retirement planning.

Getting clients to seriously review the past 12 months and the changes it brought to their lives is a big marketing win on your part as an advisor. But perhaps even more importantly, a review can elicit even bigger cost- and stress-saving wins for your clients and their families.

Accountability is key

If grandma passed away last year, then your clients might not need to be concerned with the cost of grandma’s medical care anymore, but what about planning for their own? Have they considered buying long term care insurance or whether they’ll need to qualify for Medicaid?

Did your clients get married? If they took title to a house before they got married, as is often the case these days since many couples choose to live together before marriage, they may need to re-deed a property to themselves. This makes it clear they hold the property as tenants by the entireties with all the legal benefits that entails.

Did a client get divorced? If so, then it’s definitely time to update those estate planning documents.

And, the beachside condo your clients bought for family vacations in Florida might need to be protected inside a trust.

Clients often don’t realize that family additions and losses often require a change in their planning. They also don’t realize how crucial it is to update their planning documents whenever they buy or sell a valuable asset.

That’s why many estate planning attorneys offer annual estate plan reviews or maintenance programs to help keep clients’ records up-to-date. It’s all about accountability – and your clients will thank you for it.

A call to action

Consider that your first newsletter of the year (or blog post) should be about this issue. How would you frame these questions with a call to action that will motivate your clients that experienced big changes to make an appointment with you and their estate planner?

I recommend using example stories or scenarios or creating simple illustrations to indicate to clients what sort of changes might require updates to documents. These stories and drawings should also include depictions of what can happen if a significant life change occurs and a client does NOT update his or her planning documents. Critics might call that a scare tactic, but it’s not. We’re actually educating clients when we show them the harsh results of poor planning.

We hope this information was useful to you and helps your clients and their families. If you have a specific case or a question, don’t hesitate to call our office.