Having outdated estate planning documents can sometimes be worse than having no estate documents at all! Imagine having a Will leaving your property to your 3 children but your fourth child was not included because they were born after the Will was drawn up?? Any change in a family situation, such as a birth, death or disability, may result in necessary revisions of your original documents. Every so often, you should read through your Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Directive to determine if any updates need to be made or additional provisions need to be added.
In addition, every year new laws are enacted which can affect how a court or a financial institution interprets your documents. For example, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted new legislation in 2015 which requires new verbiage to be included in Power of Attorney documents. Banks, brokerage houses, and other financial institutions will normally have their lawyers review any Power of Attorney paperwork submitted to them prior to them accepting the document as valid. Occasionally, a document will be rejected due to a minor technicality! Having an attorney review your paperwork periodically is a great idea to ensure that your desires will still be carried out as you had planned.
It is extremely important to have the financial companies where you have your stocks, money, insurance, retirement benefits, etc. review your documents prior to you actually needing to use them. If they are in place and already accepted, when the time comes, such as when a disability or incapacity occurs, you can have peace of mind knowing that your agent will be able to act on your behalf with your best interests at heart without having to battle the financial institutions or petition the courts.
The take-home message is this –if you or a loved one has any Simple Wills, Trusts, or other estate documents that have not been looked at for years it’s time to get them out, dust them off, and take them to an estate planning attorney who can advise you properly on whether they need to be updated.