Look down every once in a while. When we go outside for a walk, we are always told to stay alert and be aware of our surroundings. That is great advice and something that I follow. But as I was on a walk in a neighborhood that was constructed in the 1970’s, I looked down. And when I did, I noticed the sidewalks. Here in the Midwest, concrete doesn’t last as long as it probably does in other dryer parts of the country. The water gets into the cracks and freezes, making bigger cracks. If it rains on new concrete it can cause chipping and undermine its integrity. What I noticed on my walk was the different stages of erosion the cement sidewalk was in even though it was all poured around the same time. The more time and energy spent into keep the cement protected, then the better the sidewalk looked.
Sometimes our existing estate plans are like this sidewalk. There are some estate plans that were created in the 70’s and have never been updated. These plans remind me of the crumbling sidewalk. Neglected and put away without another glance. The owners assume that the sidewalk will do its intended job throughout the life of the property. But it will eventually begin to crumble. Our estate plans, if not routinely examined and maintained, can also crumble. Maybe the purpose is no longer being fulfilled, maybe the trust is not funded, maybe beneficiaries have predeceased you, or maybe a beneficiary is now on government assistance or has a special need. Not going over your existing estate plan and making necessary changes starts to crumble the plan you put so much time, money and effort in.
I also noticed that some owners, when the sidewalk began to crumble would put asphalt over the existing rubble. This type of “patch” was never designed to stand the test of time. You are putting two very different materials together and hope that they will bond together. Similarly, with estate plans your documents need to work together and bond to fulfill your goals. For example, if you are going to fund your trust with a life insurance policy, make sure the policy is in the trust.
The one sidewalk I saw was immaculate. You can tell it had always been taken care of. It had no crumbling, chips or cracks. It looked new, but it wasn’t. It had been protected and cared for over time. Estate plans are designed to be like this great sidewalk. Those with estate plans need to get them out and review them at least annually or when there has been any life change.
Have an attorney review your documents if you are unsure of what they mean or what changes should be made. If the attorney as a maintenance program that will provide free access to their office for questions and free changes to the documents when needed, this is a great service and will help you protect your documents like that sidewalk. So, remember to look down every so often. Look down and read your estate plan. Even if documents were created 30 years ago, they can withstand the test of time with some attention, care and maintenance. And if you have ANY questions, you can call us anytime at (317) 863-2030 or fill out this simple form and we'll call you back!
My very best to you,