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Updating your will and estate planning documents

Posted by Andrew Chan  May 25, 2010 12:00 PM

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How often should I update my will and my other estate planning documents?

Regardless of the amount of assets you have or your net worth, I generally recommend that most adults have five basic estate planning documents. These include a will, a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy, a living will and medical release or HIPAA release (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

These documents are considered "living documents" that should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated to reflect your personal and financial circumstances over time. I usually recommend that these basic documents be reviewed and updated every 2 to 5 years depending on the changes that occur in your life.

These documents should be updated more frequently if any of the following significant life events occur:

  • Changes in your family situation such as marriage, divorce, new children or grandchildren (by birth, adoption, or marriage);
  • Changes in your career or professional situation such as starting or purchasing a business, becoming a partner in a business, dissolution a business, changing jobs, or career;
  • Death, disability, or illness of a family member;
  • Changes in the number of dependents you have because you provide the care for an elderly parent or adult child;
  • Significant increases or decreases in the value of your assets due to things such as changes in the stock market, changes in salary or compensation, changes in how your assets are valued;
  • Borrowing or lending substantial amounts of money;
  • Taking on significant amounts of debt or liabilities;
  • Changes related to the receipt or disposition of a large inheritance, bequest, or gift;
  • Changes in your life insurance coverage;
  • Changes in federal or state laws;
  • Changes to those who you have named as a trustee, guardian, or executor;
  • Significant changes to your or your spouse's health; or
  • Changes in your or your spouse's wishes and goals.

The events named above do not represent an exhaustive list but they should provide you with an idea of the type of things that may trigger a review of your estate plan.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

About the contributors

D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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