Reviewing your estate plan
I’m a big advocate of regularly checking up on your estate plan. I recommend at least every 3 years or after any major life event like a death or divorce. There’s a reason we offer free, ongoing reviews for our clients and that’s because you want your estate plan to work for you.
There is a common belief that you’re all set once you have your estate planning checked off the to-do list. In fact many attorneys never check back in with their clients after drafting estate planning documents. This is all bad news because lives change, the laws change, and maybe you or your attorney made a mistake on your Will and other important documents.
Case and point
As part of our Estate Planning Strategy Sessions, I review a potential client’s previous or existing estate planning documents. Today I reviewed a couple’s Wills and other documents that were
signed created about 20 years ago. The first major thing that jumped out at me was there was NO SIGNATURE ON THE WILL!! Oh there were witness signatures…witnesses swearing they witnessed the person sign the Will. BUT in fact the person never signed the Will. Her first comment was: “good thing I didn’t die!” I actually think that to myself most days, but she was right to say that today. Had she died, there would have been no valid Will and a big mess for her family.
I know mistakes happen, but a regular review of the Will would have caught a missing signature. (Shameless plug for me: after signing we review all documents 3 times between 2 people to make sure all the signatures are in all the right places).
Second major issue for this couple: the healthcare related documents were not HIPAA compliant. In a nutshell, this means doctors might not be able to disclose important medical information. This can create a mess for the people they authorized to make medical decisions in the event of their incapacity.
Third issue: their power of attorney documents were old. Banks are often hesitant to accept a power of attorney document more than 2 years old. A 20 year old document…good luck! Fortunately you can just resign and date the power of attorney document. You don’t necessarily have to recreate the whole document every time.
If you have a dusty estate plan sitting on the shelf, pull it down and give it a look over. You never know…maybe you didn’t sign it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya.