By Atty. Anne R. Tessier
It is that time of year when the weather is warmer, the leaves have appeared on the trees, the rhododendrons are blooming, and the snowbirds are returning to the Cape. Everyone is busy cleaning off the cobwebs and working in the garden.
When putting away the winter boots and sweaters, it is also a good time to think about reviewing your will, trusts, health care proxies, living wills and other estate plan documents. While you are at it, do not forget to look over insurance policies, investments and retirement plans to be sure your information is up to date.
The temptation may be to simply wait until you get a chance to look at it later. After all it was not that long ago when you put everything together, right? But a lot can change in just a few short years.
Your life has changed. We get a little older, friends and family move away, children graduate from high school or college and start families of their own. Marriages, divorces, re-marriages, graduations, new jobs, and retirement all can happen in the span of just a few short years. And as we get older our goals can change, along with our families.
Your friends' and family's lives have changed. Even if your life has not changed, your family’s or friends’ lives may have. Recently, I had a call from my mother. She had been named as the executor of her sister’s will many years before when they lived across town from each other. Over the years my mother moved out of state and eventually stopped driving. In spite of this my mother was able to continue to help her sister when she needed her, because my father was able to help out, too. Last year however, my mother’s situation changed; my father had a stroke. My mother realized, as a practical matter, that she was no longer in a position to take care of her sister’s affairs if something happened. Sometimes, it is not just the changes in our own lives that impact our plans for the future.
It has been more than five years since you last updated your documents. Another good reason to update your plan is because some banks and health care providers may not honor powers of attorney that are more than five years old. If that happens it may be possible to go to court to enforce the documents, but isn’t the point of preparing a plan to make the process easier for your family and friends? It makes sense to review policies now and make the necessary changes and updates so that everything can go smoothly.
You put a great deal of thought into your estate plan and you want to be sure it is still as relevant today as it was when you first put it together. So clean out the dust bunnies, store the snow boots, get out in the garden, and don’t forget to take time to sit down with your family, trusted friends, financial planner or attorney to help you sort through the paperwork and bring your plan up to date.
For information on planning for young adults, see Four Legal Tools to Help Young Adults Starting Out