Your estate plan is a living document. It responds to changes in your life, such as marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. One way to ensure that your estate planning documents remain current is to incorporate milestones.
These statements keep your estate plan flexible and are one way to hedge against an unpredictable future. Adding these conditional statements helps you to provide for your loved ones beyond your lifetime in a way that is consistent with your values.
Using If-Then Statements to Clarify Your Wishes
If-then statements determine outcomes based on conditions. These statements are frequently used in computer programming and in legal documents, such as estate planning. These statements allow you to express your wishes in the event that a certain condition is met.
For example, you may want to leave your home to your only child, but only after you and your spouse both pass away. This can be expressed in an If-Then statement.
You can combine multiple If-Then statements to account for numerous future possibilities. Using them in your estate planning documents lets you plan for future contingencies in a way that would not be possible with simple declarative statements.
Common Milestones Used When Writing If-Then Statements in Estate Planning
Conditional provisions are commonly written in an If-Then statement, but they do not have to be. Another way to manage life’s uncertainties is to link gifts or distributions to certain events or milestones.
Here are some events or milestones to consider when writing your estate plans:
- Age: A child turning eighteen or twenty-one is commonly used as an event to trigger an action in an estate plan, such as receiving a distribution from a trust.
- Education: Completing a degree or certificate may trigger the release of a financial gift.
- Homeownership: When a beneficiary buys their first home, it may trigger a gift or a distribution.
- Wedding: Since parents commonly pay for at least some of their first wedding, this event could trigger a gift or distribution.
- Children: Having a child, adopting a child, or using in vitro fertilization as assistance for getting pregnant are all expensive. These events may trigger a distribution to help with the expenses.
- Employment: If you are concerned that your beneficiary may be unable to keep a job or will waste their inheritance, you could stipulate that they must remain employed to receive their inheritance.
- Sobriety: If one of your beneficiaries has struggled with addiction, you may want to add a clause that they must remain sober for a certain period before they receive their inheritance.
- Retirement: If you have a beneficiary who has worked hard all their life but may not have enough money to financially retire, you may want to reward them with a lump sum gift distributed when they retire.
All of these estate planning milestones can be modified or combined to meet your family’s needs. For example, you may want to distribute part of your child’s inheritance before marriage but retain the rest in a trust. This protects the money in case they get a divorce.
Another possibility is that your investments may over-perform or under-perform. You can stipulate how the increase or decrease in funds will be handled. Perhaps, if your investment over-performs, you want the excess to go to a charity of your choice or a certain beneficiary.
Plan for The Future Now
Set a time to meet with your estate planning attorney to review your documents and add appropriate if-then clauses and milestones.
While this can make estate planning more complicated, it can give you confidence that you will be able to provide for your loved ones even when life’s circumstances change.
Your estate attorney can help you develop a diagram or flowchart that maps out these contingencies. This can make reviewing and updating your estate planning documents much easier in response to a major life-changing event.