Things change. Despite all the time and thought that went into creating your will or trust, life happens. Often these changes affect your estate planning. If you don’t regularly review and adjust your plan it may not achieve your desired results when you need it most.
How often should I review my documents? We recommend reviewing your revocable living trust or will, along with your advance legal (health) directives, at least every three years. This review is especially important if you experienced any major life changes since your documents were executed, including:
- New family members, or a loss of a loved one
- Child that has turned 18 or 21
- A recently married or divorced beneficiary
- Beneficiary concerns, such as financial issues, substance abuse problems or disabilities
- Creation, sale, or closing of a business
- Purchase of a new or second home, or acquiring an investment property
- Changes to your beneficiary or successor trustee designations
- Changes in your relationships with your beneficiaries and/or successor trustees
Can a change in the law affect my documents? Yes, very definitely. Let’s look at a common estate planning document, a durable power of attorney. Several years ago financial institutions lobbied the Florida legislature to change the applicable law to protect banks and brokerage firms from liability if a durable power of attorney is misused or forged. The new law suggests certain “magic” language which, if included in the durable power of attorney, provides this protection, which makes financial institutions much more likely to honor the document. If your document was drafted before 2011, it won’t contain this magic language.
Another change to the law which took effect on October 1, 2015, affects your health care power of attorney. The Florida legislature has revised the law to clarify confusion surrounding when a health care power of attorney becomes effective. Your health care power of attorney can be effective immediately, but only if you so designate. If not, your treating physician must first determine that you are unable to manage your own care before they will take instruction from your designated agent. The new law also offers new choices in terms of designating a health care surrogate for a minor child. Because of this change in the law, there is new language that should be part of your health care power of attorney. If your health care power of attorney was executed before October of 2015, it should be updated.
How do I know if laws have changed that may affect my estate planning documents? The best way to is to contact your estate planning attorney for a periodic review of your plan. Many attorneys will also affirmatively contact their clients if relevant laws change.
Life can change in an instant. What are you waiting for?