We frequently work with individuals and families that have some existing estate planning documents in place. Perhaps a Will and Trust were prepared several years earlier or a power of attorney was signed a decade ago. A client may ask if these are still effective and appropriate? Do they need to be updated? What do they say? It’s important to periodically review existing documents. For a new client review our fees are minimal and we perform a thorough review and detailed summary of all existing documents, coupled with straightforward recommendations. A review for an existing client is always free of charge. While estate planning documents would not normally “expire,” a review can be important in assuring that your goals and purposes are correctly and accurately in place.
It is important to keep your estate planning documents up to date. Fortunately, in many cases, this does not require frequent changes to a will, trust or power of attorney. Laws do sometimes change that may require some changes to your documents but this only occurs periodically. The most pressing reasons why your will, trust or power of attorney may need to be updated are typically life changes or family changes. For example, perhaps a marriage or divorce alters your goals and plans. Or maybe an untimely death has altered what you would like to happen in your planning. Relationships sometimes change and you may feel a need to make some related changes. In most instances, estate planning is meant to last indefinitely—but when changes in your life or family come along (or occasionally, changes in the law) updating your documents can become extremely important.
I meet frequently with clients who have in place estate planning documents to which they want to make changes. Perhaps the documents are very old and family and life changes (since the time the documents were signed) necessitate re-addressing their provisions and goals. Or perhaps a major life change has just occurred (marriage, divorce, death) and related document changes are needed to reflect a new reality of circumstances. In any situation where changes are needed, it is always a top priority to take the most efficient (and most cost effective) route to making those changes. Often times, a simple amendment to an existing document will reach the desired outcome at a minimal cost. Other times, needed changes may be so comprehensive so as to favor replacing a prior document with a new document. While the particulars of any situation inevitably vary, our goal is always to get the best and clearest outcome—with as little cost and difficulty as possible.