Great, you completed your estate planning. The healthcare crisis may have been just the motivation you needed to get this off your to do list. Now you don’t have to think about any of this again for a long time, or do you? This article lays out the who, what, when, and where of reviewing and updating your planning.
You have Agents (people who will serve in certain roles and take certain actions for you) and Beneficiaries (people who will inherit from you when you die) named in your estate planning documents. We recommend that you stay in contact with your Agents about your preferences and wishes. Not only do you want to make sure they know how you want to be cared for, you need to ensure that they still have the time and desire to help you. Your desired Beneficiaries may change through birth, marriage, death, divorce or any number of other scenarios. It is a good idea to check every few years to ensure the people you named are still the ones you want to inherit.
We recommend that all of our clients have the following documents: an Advance Directive for Health Care, a Durable Power of Attorney, and a Will. From time to time the laws that govern which forms to use and how they are used change. In 2007, the State of Georgia passed a new law that created the Advance Directive for Health Care. This document replaced the need to have both a Living Will and a Health Care Powers of Attorney by outlining your health care wishes and Agents in the same form. Likewise, the State of Georgia updated our Power of Attorney statute in 2018. This new law provided a new preferred form document and clarification about how it may be used. Your older Health Care and Durable Powers of Attorney are still valid, but the new form will very likely be easier for your Agent to use when the time comes.
Some attorneys recommend that you review your documents every year. That is not realistic for most of our busy lives. Important life changes or events are a key time to review and potentially update your documents. Birth, adoption, or graduation of children or grandchildren are happy reminders that our family is changing and our planning may need to change with it. Death and divorce are less welcome but likewise cause the need to update planning. Retirement or a move are another great time to review your estate plan to make sure you still have the right people and plan in place.
Your original estate planning documents are important. Your Agents need a copy of and access to the originals. If you have lost or accidentally destroyed your original documents, it is time to review and re-sign. You also want to review your documents if you move to a new state or a new country. Estate planning laws are state specific, so review your existing documents with an attorney in your new state.