When should you update your Estate Plan?
By Lynn St. Louis, Managing Partner at Elder Law Group PLLC
For many people, once you’ve done your Will and Powers of Attorney you generally don’t think about your Estate Plan again… at least not until you need it. How often do you hear from the attorney who did your initial plan? Most say never.
So when should you consider updating your Estate Plan? Here are some situations where you should consider taking a second look.
A death has occurred
This sounds obvious, but if you experience a death in the family you should take a look to make sure that your Estate Plan isn’t impacted. Particularly if your primary beneficiary passes, or the person you have designated as Attorney-in-Fact for your Powers of Attorney for Health and Finances, you will need to update your documents as soon as possible.
Determining who has custody of young children in case of an emergency, changing beneficiaries, and changing your Attorney-in-Fact are all things that need to be considered when a couple divorces.
If one spouse passes away and the surviving spouse remarries, a common issue that comes up is the “unintentional disinheritance” of children.
What is “unintentional disinheritance?” Let’s use an example. Fred and Betty have been together for 50 years, and Betty passes away. Say that Fred marries a new wife, June. Fred has children from his previous marriage, as does June. If he passed away, it’s June that inherits Fred’s estate. Once June passes away, then her children inherit both her and Fred’s estate. Fred’s children get nothing. If Fred and Betty had a Will with an Asset Protection Trust, their children would not have been left out, even after he remarried.
Long-Term Care is needed
Over 70% of seniors will need some form of Long-Term Care. Skilled nursing and assisted living costs are very expensive, though government programs exist that can help pay. Advice from friends and family, though well intended, could steer you wrong and end up costing you government assistance. Once you lose capacity you can no longer chose for yourself. There are some things that can be done at the time of need, but you still risk losing assets. Planning ahead of time is always the most beneficial strategy. Contact an Elder Law Attorney who is experienced with Medicaid planning and applications if you or a loved one needs Long-Term Care.
Moved to a new state
Every state has different rules for how Powers of Attorney work, as well as different processes for probate. Some states are extremely expensive for probate, so if you own property there then you would want to consider strategies that avoid it. Probate in Washington State is not expensive and is a useful tool for protecting assets for loved ones.
Purchased new property
When you buy or sell property you may or may not want to update your Estate Plan. An attorney will help guide you to your best options.
State law changes
Every once in a while, states update their laws pertaining to Estate Planning. In 2017, Washington changed the requirements for Powers of Attorney. While legal documents are valid in every state, you run the risk of institutions refusing to accept your documents if they are not in a format they are accustomed to – particularly when it comes to Powers of Attorney for Health and Finances.
A long time has passed since your Estate Plan was written
It’s not uncommon for people to put an Estate Plan together and just assume it’s valid indefinitely. The rule of thumb is to examine your Estate Plan once every 5 years or so to make sure that the information within it is current and correct.
How many of these apply to you? If you are looking to update your Estate Plan, give the experienced team at Elder Law Group a call at 509-468-0551.