How Often Should I Review My Estate Planning Documents?
October 19th through the 25th is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, one of the main goals of which is to educate and assist the general public in establishing and keeping estate plans current. As a reader of this newsletter, you’re likely aware of the importance of creating estate planning documents such as a will, advance medical directive, power of attorney, and in some situations, a trust. After you have those documents in place, however, you might wonder: “How often should I review them?”
Many individuals sign their estate planning documents, put them in a safe, and forget about them for several years. When it comes time to put those documents to use, they’re outdated and no longer the best fit for the family’s needs. To avoid this, we generally recommend as a rule of thumb that you review your estate planning documents – your will, any trusts, advance medical directive, and power of attorney – at least once a year, to ensure they still reflect your wishes, take into account your financial situation, and best provide for your loved ones. The Hook Law Center sends annual reminders to our estate planning clients, to encourage this practice.
In addition, we recommend that any time there is a change in your family circumstances, you revisit your documents with an experienced estate planning attorney. Changes that warrant taking another look at – and sometimes updating – your documents include:
- Marriage or divorce in your family – either yours or your loved ones’
- Births and deaths
- Loved ones receiving means-based public benefits such as Medicaid or SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- Credit problems and lawsuits – either yours or your loved ones’
- Minors attaining the age of majority
- Significant changes in the value of your estate
- Incapacity issues – in your loved ones and named fiduciaries
- The acquisition or disposition of assets
- Moving to another state
- Acquiring property in another state
Of course, any time state or federal law changes may impact your estate plan, you should review your estate planning documents with an attorney to ensure compliance, as well. Anytime the federal estate tax exemption is changed dramatically, for example, we recommend your financial assets and documents be reviewed. We aim to keep our clients up-to-date about these changes through use of this newsletter, special reports and mailings.
If you or your loved ones have recently had significant changes in your lives or it has been more than a year since you last reviewed your estate plan, consider speaking with one of the Hook Law Center’s attorneys today.
ASK KIT KAT
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about pit bulls and their success in being adopted?
Kit Kat: Well, there is much good news to report. In the past, pit bulls unfortunately had an undeserved reputation for being aggressive, and hard to manage. Many were mishandled or maltreated as fighting dogs. As a result, they were among the first to be surrendered to shelters. However, a study by the ASPCA finds that things are improving for pit bulls and pit-mixes. According to Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA Vice President of Research and Development, the ASPCA conducted a study in which data from 45 animal shelters was reviewed for the years 2013 and 2014. What was learned was that there was a decrease during 2014, as compared to 2013, of the number of pit bulls and pit-mixes which entered shelters and which were later euthanized.
However, pit bulls and pit-mixes are not in the clear completely. They still are the most commonly surrendered breed of dog to shelters and the breed that is euthanized the most. Please consider these wonderful dogs when adopting a dog from a shelter. If given a chance, they make loving pets. Shelter staff will honestly help you assess whether or not a particular dog is a good fit for you and your family. Also, in warmer climates they have the advantage of having short fur, so they are more comfortable dealing with heat than longer haired breeds. Their medium size is an advantage for apartment or condo dwellers. For these reasons, you may be pleasantly surprised how well-suited these dogs are to be a family pet.
(“Study Reveals Increasingly Positive Outcomes for Pit Bulls in Shelters,” ASPCA Action, Fall 2015, p.8)