Over your lifetime, your familial and financial situation can change significantly, and your estate plan should change with it. Consistently reviewing and updating a carefully crafted estate plan is crucial to making it fit your current wishes while remaining legally enforceable. An estate planning attorney in Columbia, MO, can help you make appropriate changes while ensuring that the updated estate plan is still legally valid.

If you allow too much time to pass between reviewing and updating your estate plan, you may have assets without beneficiaries, a living will that gives your well-being over to someone you do not wish to have that control, or provisions to distribute assets that are no longer yours to distribute. This can significantly complicate the legal process of implementing your estate plan.

You should review your estate every few years and after big changes in your life. Life changes that can affect your estate plan include:

Family Additions

Additions to your family can include the birth or adoption of new children, new grandchildren, and the marriage of people in your family. You may want to include these familial additions in your estate plan. This may include adding provisions for young children and grandchildren, naming guardians for your minor children, and making trusts to ensure that minor children receive the assets you wish them to.


When you get married, you should update your estate plan. A marriage is both a financial and a familial change in your life, and your estate plan should reflect those changes. Many individuals wish to make their spouse the primary beneficiary, name them as executor, give them power of attorney, or provide them with other important information. Married couples may also want to make a joint estate plan. You may also want to add your spouse’s family members to your estate plan.


If you get divorced, this affects your finances and your relationships. Under Missouri law, an ex-spouse is automatically removed from being able to inherit your assets under intestate law and in your will. However, this law does not address trusts.

If you wish to remove your ex-spouse from inheriting from a trust, you must update those documents. If you want your ex-spouse to continue to inherit assets from your will, you must update the will to address this. You may also want to remove your ex-spouse from important roles, such as executor or power of attorney.

Divorce also alters the assets you own, as about half of marital assets will no longer be yours. You must update your estate plan to reflect those changes.

Loss in the Family

The death or estrangement of a family member can change your wishes in your estate plan. If you leave assets to deceased individuals and have no alternate beneficiaries, these assets could pass to the state’s jurisdiction. When family members or other individuals are estranged, you may want to remove them from being beneficiaries or other roles in your estate plan. This could include trustees, executors, heirs, and contingent heirs.

Other Changes

There are other important life changes that can affect your estate plan, including:

  • Loss of significant assets
  • Changes to your personal health
  • Gaining significant debts, such as student loans
  • Changes to your income or employment
  • Gaining significant assets, such as buying a home, beginning a business, buying a vehicle, or investing in real estate property
  • An heir or loved one developing a disability
  • Moving to another state, meaning that the estate, tax, and inheritance laws governing your estate plan could change
  • Retirement, which changes your income and future goals
  • Gaining property in other states
  • A minor child or grandchild becoming an adult


Q: When Should You Revisit and Possibly Revise Your Estate Plan?

A: Financial professionals say that you should revisit and consider revising an estate plan every two to five years and when there are significant changes in your life or to estate planning laws. A consistent review can ensure that your plan meets your current wishes while catching any potential changes that you’ve missed. Life changes, such as marriage, divorce, growing families, moving to another state, or establishing a new business, are all impactful events that should trigger a review of an estate plan.

Q: How Long Does an Executor Have to Settle an Estate in Missouri?

A: There isn’t a set deadline in Missouri to settle an estate, although it will take a minimum of six months. Once an executor or personal representative is put in charge of administering the estate, they provide notice to known and unknown creditors. The creditors have six months under Missouri law to file a claim with the estate.

Once creditor claims have closed, then the executor can take the final steps to distribute assets and close the estate. This may take 10 to 60 days. The probate process will take longer if there are any will contests or other legal complications.

Q: How Long Do You Have to File for Probate After Someone’s Death in Missouri?

A: Missouri law states that an action to file a will or file for probate must be taken within a year after an individual’s death. If probate is not opened on an estate within that time, heirs and beneficiaries cannot receive assets from the deceased, and creditors cannot file their claims. However, if assets are not subject to probate, such as being passed through a trust, the estate may follow different requirements.

Q: How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go Through Probate in Missouri?

A: In Missouri, estates worth more than $40,000 must go through probate. If the estate is worth $40,000 or less, it may qualify for a simplified probate process. Many individuals prefer to have their estates avoid probate court for many reasons, including saving their heirs money and stress and keeping their estate private. The most effective way to avoid probate court is to create a comprehensive estate plan that includes different types of trusts.

Updating and Refining Your Estate Plan in Columbia

If you are looking to create or update your estate plan, contact the attorneys at Stange Law Firm. Our team can help you review your unique situation and determine how your life changes should be reflected in your estate plan. We can help you protect yourself, your loved ones, and your estate during your life and after your death.