Your estate planning documents should be updated regularly. They are not meant for you to “set it and forget it.” We recommend that everyone follow the following rule of thumb for updating their advance directives: Whenever there is a new decade, death, diagnosis, divorce, decline, or change in domicile, it’s time to update your estate planning documents.
Whenever one of these things happen in your life, you should update, or at least review, your advance directive:
Decade – At each 10-year birthday (i.e., 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90)
Death – When there’s been a death in your family or support system.
Diagnosis – If a serious medical problem arises for you or one of your named agents.
Divorce – If your spouse was named as agent of your directive.
Decline – If your or your agents’ health declines rapidly or if you lose functioning.
Domicile — If there is a change in your living situation (e.g., if you move, if someone moves in with you, etc.)
This is not welcome news for many, but it is best practice.
Last month, someone asked me why her mom is required to update the power of attorney she created in 1995. She was insisting that the documents were still good and that she did not want to spend the time, money, and energy to put new documents in place.
I get it. I can think of at least 200 tasks that would be easier and more pleasant to do besides sign a new power of attorney and new will. Old documents are still valid, but they may not reflect what the person wants, the appointed agents and/or beneficiaries may not be alive, and the document may not comply with current state laws. So, even though you do not have to update old documents, you should. Or you should at least have an elder law attorney review your current documents.
If you need to update your current estate planning documents because one of the six Ds listed above has happened (or if you just want your documents reviewed by one of our Certified Elder Law Attorneys), please contact our office through our website or by calling us at (404) 843-0121.