Do you have a Will or a Trust? Power of Attorney? Healthcare Power of Attorney? Living Will?
If so, great. Here is a really important question: when was the last time you reviewed and updated your estate planning documents? For a significant portion of the population, the answer is unfortunately “I can’t recall.”
My favorite story about “old” estate planning documents involves a neat couple in their 80’s from southeastern Colorado. At our first meeting I asked the husband, “Sir, do you have a Will?” He answered, “Yes sir, I do.” I followed up, “May I see it?” He responded by sliding a one-page document across the table. I reviewed the document. It was a Will signed in 1961. I asked the man if anything had changed. He replied, “I reckon so.”
During the course of our meeting I learned that the 1961 Will was signed when the man and his wife were a young couple just starting out. At the time, the had one young son; when we met, they had three more children – two daughters and another son. In 1961, by their own assessment, they were poor public servants; when we met, they were successful ranchers with significant savings. Many things had changed – but their estate plan had not kept up with the changes in their lives.
Unfortunately, this is par for the course. Many people put off getting their planning done. Of those who do their planning, most fail to keep their plans current. They treat estate planning as a “check the box” exercise – much like the man with the 1961 Will. A non-current plan is arguably better that no plan at all but probably not by much. An out of date plan can actually be worse than not having a plan.
The best way to ensure that your plan is up to date is to regularly review it to ensure it remains consistent with your objectives. Change is the only constant in life. People change – there are births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Finances change. Health changes. Relationships change. It is imperative to ensure that, as change happens, your estate plan remains consistent with your objectives.
Pull out your estate planning documents and read them. When you notice things that are out of date or otherwise are no longer accurate, go see an attorney. Update your documents. Get the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are “All Set!”
Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Kevin Forbush J.D., CPA. Kevin is one of the principal attorneys at Forbush Goldberg PLLC and may be reached at 719-473-6654 or by email at email@example.com.