By Larissa Stein
This is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, so it is an especially good time raise awareness for the importance of not only having an estate plan (a Will, Power of Attorney, and in some circumstances a Trust) but also keeping that estate plan updating. Many people have a tendency to complete their estate plan and then tuck it away and forget about it for decades. It is important to remember than an outdated estate plan can be as problematic as not having an estate plan at all. A current high-profile example of this is the situation professional basketball player Lamar Odom was in earlier this month: as a result of some poor life choices, he was in a coma, and, although he did have Powers of Attorney to legally appoint someone to make medical and financial decisions on his behalf while he was incapacitated, that person was unfortunately his estranged wife. Another celebrity example you may remember from several years ago is Anna Nicole Smith who forgot to update her Will after her daughter was born and then died with an old Will in effect that specifically disinherited future-born children. The chaos that resulted in these celebrities’ situations would have been greatly minimized had they kept their estate plans updated throughout the changes in their lives.
You should review your estate plan as soon as possible after any major life change, such as a marriage, birth of children, separation, divorce, relocation to another state, or significant change in assets. Even if you do not think anything major has occurred in your life, it is a good idea to review your estate plan at least every 3-5 years to refresh your memory on the decisions you made and be sure the plan will still achieve your goals. Your review should include not only your Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives, and any Trust you may have but also any beneficiary designations you may have on assets such as life insurance or retirements. Remember that it is always best to make any necessary changes while things are going well rather than waiting until problems arise!
Please feel free to reach out to any of the attorneys at Garrity & Gossage if you have questions about whether an update to your estate plan is necessary.
Larissa Bixler Stein is an attorney with Garrity & Gossage, LLP whose passion is helping those in North and South Carolina provide a more secure future for themselves and their loved ones through Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Guardianship, Probate, and Elder Law Services. Please note that this article is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual’s situation. Those seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.