It is a good rule of thumb to continually update your estate plan after a major life change. Significant life changes come at different times, look different for everyone, and can apply to many stages in life. A significant life change can be anything that significantly alters your life in some way: getting married, having children, moving to a new state, getting a big raise, and even retiring.

Retirement, however, is often the main catalyst for many people to take another look at their estate planning documents. As people age, they want to ensure that their families are well taken care of should anything happen to them.

Actions You Can Take if You’re Already Retired

Just because you’ve already retired doesn’t mean you can’t update your estate plan! Use this opportunity to take another look at what you already have in place and update it. Or, if you still need to start your estate planning journey, it’s still possible to get started.

If you are ready to take another look at your estate plan, here are some things that you can do to ensure your estate plan is up-to-date and easy to access:

1. Ensure Your Estate Plan is Up-to-Date

Many people believe that creating a Will or a Trust many years ago means they don’t have anything to worry about should anything happen. However, people don’t often consider everything that’s changed since they last updated their estate planning documents. Have you gotten divorced since you last updated your estate plan, or has your spouse since passed? Were your children minors when you initially began the estate planning process, and now they’re adults? Have you moved to a different state?

Life doesn’t progress linearly. If something significant in your life has changed since you first drafted your estate plan, you should take another look at it now.

[Related Reading: How Often Should I Update My Estate Plan?]

2. Double-Check Your Beneficiaries

Retirement accounts, including 401ks, IRAs, and bank accounts, allow you to list beneficiaries. As part of your estate planning, make it a priority to double-check who is listed as the beneficiary on your accounts. If you’ve worked at a company for a long time, you may not have changed your beneficiaries since you opened the account. This poses a potential problem if you’ve been divorced or have a spouse who’s already passed. Take a second look at the beneficiaries of your retirement and bank accounts – it can make things much easier for your loved ones later.

3. Organize Your Assets

One of the most overwhelming things about going through probate after someone’s passed is figuring out their assets. Your loved ones may know you had a retirement account, but they may not know which company holds it as well as the account number, how much money is in the account, or any other important information that the court needs to know for probate later on.

Take time to gather each account’s statements, account numbers, and beneficiary information and store it safely. Your loved ones will thank you for doing so as they navigate the probate process when you’re gone.

[Related Reading: How To Create an Estate Guide and Inventory]

Create Your Estate Plan

You don’t have to wait until retirement to create a Relational Estate Plan®. You can begin estate planning at any age and stage of life. Creating an estate plan when you’re young and updating that estate plan consistently as you age and experience significant life changes will make things easier the closer you get to retirement.

If you’re retired or close to retirement and you haven’t created an estate plan, contact us here at Relational Estate & Elder Law. We would love to sit with you and help you craft a Relational Estate Plan® to help you and your family prepare for the years ahead. If you’re interested in working with our team, contact us today!


Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate & Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.


Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.