Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Estate Planning: When was the last time you updated your Estate Plan?


It was years ago when your children were small.  You went to an attorney’s office and had a Will drawn up.  All is well, right?

No.  You must update your estate plan as your life progresses and changes. If your estate plan is over 10 years old, it is out of date. You can’t lock the documents away forever and never think of them again.

You should personally review them annually to be certain that there are no changes that need to be made.  When there are changes, you should make an appointment with your attorney to update the documents.

First, your children are not minors any more.  They don’t need guardians or conservators.  Maybe you have grandchildren to think about.

Perhaps the individuals that you selected as your personal representatives are no long appropriate (or living).  Your assets are much different today.  There may have been marriages, births, deaths, and disabilities of family members.  You might have received gifts or inheritances that need to be addressed.

The type of estate plan that you set up when your children are young and you have few assets is very different from the one that you set up when your children are young adults or when you are preparing to retire.  Your assets have changed; your circumstances have changed; your life has changed.

Also, the laws have changed.  In 2012 there were changes to financial powers of attorney.   There have continually been changes in the laws relating to your health care power of attorney.  We now are able to appoint a Funeral Representative.

The statutes relating to Revocable Trusts have undergone two major revisions, one in 2000 and one in 2010.  Do your trusts reflect the changes?  If they were drafted in the late 1990’s, they are very out of date.

Summer is over, the weather is cold.  It’s a great time to find those documents, pull them out, dust them off and review them.  It’s probably time to make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to review the changes that need to be made to get your estate plan up-to-date.

ESTATE PLANNING: Why would you do this in the summer?

The weather is finally warm. It’s time to hit the beaches, go out on the boat, play golf…

Why would you consider estate planning now?

First, it is still on your bucket list. You resolved to get it done this year. You shouldn’t keep putting it off.

Importantly, this is the time that families get together. It’s a good opportunity to talk – parents and children about important issues. You may find that your children want you to get this taken care of. They have heard horror stories from their friends about what happens when you don’t take the time to plan.

Shouldn’t your children know:

• Where your important documents are located?
• Who your financial advisor and attorney are?
• Who you would like to handle your estate when the time comes?
• Who you would like to be your Patient Advocate if you were too sick to speak for yourself? And what you would like to have done for you, or not done for you?
• What type of advance funeral planning have you done? And if none, what is it that you would like for yourself?
• What plan should be made for living arrangements when you cannot live independently anymore?

These are important issues and deserve careful thought and discussion.

Shouldn’t parents know:

• Which items of personal property each of the children would like? And more importantly, what they do not want?
• Whether the children actually want the family home, the family farm, or the family cottage?
• Whether the children are in a position to assist if a parent is too ill to live independently?

While feelings can be bruised when we find that our children don’t value our personal property, the farm, or the cottage, this is important to know ahead of time. This is part of a good plan.

A dialogue will solve more issues than create them. It is the surprises down the road that create friction among children and their parents. Your children may not necessarily agree with your plans, but if they know ahead of time they can learn to live with it. Learning to respect points of view when we don’t agree is an important aspect of being part of a family.
So, when everyone is sitting around enjoying a beverage, or sitting around the campfire, try talking about these issues. You may find that your children are eager and receptive to helping you plan for the future.