We normally advise our clients to update their estate plans every five years or so, but 2020 was a year of unprecedented changes. We wouldn’t be doing our job as Elder Law Attorneys if we didn’t remind you that this year you really need to consider updating your plan.
In this pandemic age, it’s important to know that Estate Planning Attorneys can no longer do “deathbed wills.” The one time we absolutely must meet with clients is when they sign estate documents. This requires that two witnesses and a notary be physically present. This is impossible to do in a hospital or care facility setting.
Consider if you’ve experienced any major life changes. These may include the following:
- Loss of a loved one
- Gotten divorced or separated.
- Gotten married or in a new partnership arrangement.
- Have new children or grandkids.
- Want to disinherit someone. (It’s OK to want to get even.)
- Want to add a beneficiary.
- Want to leave an inheritance to a charity or non-profit.
- Want to make sure that the medical system knows how you want to be treated should you experience a life-threatening illness. (It helps to have a lawyer in your corner when dealing with this.)
- Want to relieve your loved ones of having to make last minute life or death decisions.
- Want to leave directions for the disposition of your remains.
- Need to make sure that your Power of Attorney is up-to-date and that your personal representative (also called your attorney-in-fact) is who you trust to deal with your affairs should you become incapacitated. (Sometimes banks require their own powers of attorney or need one that’s been signed in the last six months. The attorney who did your POA can have a discussion with the bank and usually fix this.)
This is also a good time to update what we refer to as “non-probate assets.” These would be things that have beneficiaries, like life insurance policies, IRA or other retirement accounts, pensions, and bank accounts. We’ve heard horror stories where someone has forgotten to update the beneficiary of their pension or life insurance, and it’s gone to an ex-spouse. Unhappiness follows.
When making changes to your estate plan, it’s always wise to seek the counsel of an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney. They can guide you in changes that could be most advantages to you and your estate and/or avoid unforeseen future problems.
— By Peggy Sanders, Elder Law Attorney, and Ralph Sanders