Template and generic estate plans are usually not a good idea. It is important for a California resident to have an estate plan customized for one's specific situation. Many people, once they have created an estate plan, will leave it and forget it. However, it is always a good idea to periodically update one's estate planning strategy in order to take into consideration any significant life changes.
This is definitely important if one is married and is concerned about one's spouse being taken care of after one unexpectedly dies. For instance, most married individuals will leave most, if not all, of their assets to the surviving spouse. However, many have not considered what to do if the surviving spouse needs nursing care later in life. Or, in some cases, the spouse may have since begun requiring nursing care after the estate plan was already created without this situation in mind.
Without updating estate planning strategies and documents to reflect this change in circumstances, the spouse may be put in a difficult situation. The surviving spouse may need to use his or her assets as well as inherited assets in order to pay for nursing care. If the surviving spouse was receiving benefits from Medicare or any other government assistance program, it is possible these benefits would be lost.
On the other hand, a person can update one's estate planning strategy in order to make sure a surviving spouse's nursing care needs will be provided for. One way to do this in California is through a special needs trust. However, each situation is different, which means every person will require his or her own customized estate plan with the correct legal instruments aimed at fulfilling specific estate planning goals.
Source: greenbaypressgazette.com, "Review estate plan often to protect beneficiaries", Carissa Giebel, June 29, 2015