In our practice, we see many clients who have an outdated estate plan. Even if you have a Will and powers of attorney, they may not meet your current needs. Here are three problems to watch out for:
You Named the Wrong Executor or Trustee
Your Executor or Trustee should be someone you trust. Outdated estate plans often name fiduciaries or successor fiduciaries who are no longer suited for the position. An Executor named years earlier may be too old or may have died. A Trustee who will be in charge of managing assets may no longer be close to the family. A Guardian may not be necessary if your children are no longer minors.
Your Children are Older
When your children are young, your primary goal is to name a guardian to help raise them and provide a structure (often by trust) for management of money. If your child is now an adult, these concerns may no longer be relevant.
Perhaps your children will now take over the role of Executor or Trustee. Or, if your child isn’t financially responsible, maybe you want to extend that Trust to provide continuing oversight of assets. You may have new issues arise as well, such as preserving an inheritance for grandchildren or protecting it from divorce.
Your Medical Authority is Defective
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996 to establish national standards for protecting the confidentiality of medical records. As a general rule, your powers of attorney – medical directives, living wills, and durable financial power of attorney – should contain stipulations waiving HIPAA protections so that your agent can communicate with your physician about your care.
These provisions ensure that your doctor can share important information about you so that your agent can make informed health care decisions. Without these protections, doctors may be unwilling to share medical information. If your powers of attorney are old enough, they may not even reference HIPAA.
It is important to review your estate planning documents every so often due to ever-changing tax laws and major life events. You should consider revisiting your plan ever 3 to 5 years. Life can change and it is vital to meet with your attorney to avoid potential pitfalls.