While the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect day-to-day life here in the United States, the most common question we have been asked as estate planning attorneys is whether an existing estate plan should be changed or updated.
Of course, the answer to that question (like most things in life, and especially in the law) is that it depends. Here are some quick questions to consider when thinking about whether it’s time to update your Estate Plan:
How Long Has It Been Since You Created Your Plan?
Estate planning attorneys generally advise their clients to have their plans reviewed every three to five years. The laws that affect wills, trusts, taxes, and estates change often, and having your plan reviewed at regular intervals can help ensure that your documents stay up to date. Additionally, one critical document that every adult needs during the COVID-19 crisis is a Power of Attorney (POA). A POA appoints someone who can legally act on your behalf if you get sick and can’t manage your own affairs for any length of time. However, there are many banks and financial institutions that will not accept a Power of Attorney that is over 12 months old or that does not equivocally tract the statutory language. So even if your will and trust are current, you may still need to have your POA “refreshed” so that it’s honored if your family needs it. Additionally, it is equally important to have a Medical Power of Attorney, which appoints someone to make healthcare-related decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
Has Your Life Changed?
If you’ve experienced any significant life changes since your plan was created, it’s probably a good idea to meet with a lawyer for a document review. Such changes include marriage, divorce, purchase or sale of significant assets, birth or death of a child, an adoption, the receipt of an inheritance, or the diagnosis of a serious medical condition. It’s important that your documents reflect a current snapshot of your life so that all assets are accounted for, there’s no dispute about “who gets what,” and that ultimately your plan is carried out according to YOUR wishes and not a judge’s. Another thing to consider is whether there have been any changes with the fiduciaries or agents named in your documents. Maybe the person you originally named as Executor in your will is now unable to serve in that capacity, or perhaps your relationship with the person named as a Successor Agent under a Power of Attorney has changed.
Have You Changed Your Mind?
We recently heard from someone who created a healthcare directive years ago that stated under no circumstances would she want to be on a ventilator or feeding tube if something happened to her. When she put those wishes in writing, she certainly wasn’t thinking about the coronavirus (because it didn’t exist). But now, she realized that being on a ventilator might be just a temporary part of her care if she came down with the virus… and it was something she did want if it would save her life. The good news is that this person was able to update her legal documents and explain her new desires to her family so they could carry out her wishes in an emergency. If you’ve changed your mind about anything in your plan, you may need to do the same.
Still Unsure? We Are Here to Guide You Through Your Options.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused us all to think deeply about our wishes for our assets, our family, and even our medical care in the event we get sick, can’t communicate, or pass away. However, even people who “thought” their affairs were in order discovered that maybe their documents were out-of-date or no longer reflected an accurate snapshot of their wishes or goals.
If you’re unsure if your current plan is sufficient to protect you during the pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact our DFW will and trust lawyers at (817) 752-3307 to schedule a complimentary document review.