Spring Cleaning: Time to Review Our Estate Plans
With the arrival of spring we begin thinking about spring cleaning. We are challenged to take a hard look at our household and ourselves in order to review the changes that time has created. Statistics show that people revise their last will and testament typically 20 years after their initial creation! We should be mindful that changes should be made whenever there are substantial life changes.
Let’s first look at the Durable Power of Attorney. Do you have one? This is the document that authorizes someone to act on your behalf for business and financial matters. If you have one, is the person you appointed still alive and well? Are the successor that you appointed still available and the ideal person to physically and emotionally serve your needs? Do you still trust the originally appointed person with the signed blank check that gives them access to the financial matters in your life? It is important to ask yourself questions like these on a regular basis. Is your Durable Power of Attorney is still valid with the current laws of your state and is your Power of Attorney recorded with your current financial institutions?
The second focus of attention in the “spring cleaning” of your estate plan should be on the status of your health care authorization forms. Typically, the decisions that you make regarding your health care will change with your age. For example, considerations that one makes at the age of 30 with young children would be very different from the decisions one makes at the age of 60. Again, let’s review the people who have been appointed to serve as your proxy when you are not able to communicate the decisions that you would want during incapacitation. Are the people appointed still able and willing to serve as your health care proxy? Do they know what decisions you have made regarding your health care? Have you identified the way that you want to celebrate the life that you have lived providing comfort and closure to those people who care about you? Is the house of faith or funeral home you have identified still in existence?
The last will and testament should reflect your assets and your values. Do you know where your will is? Again, do the people who are appointed to serve have capacity to serve? Do they have the emotional strength to complete the necessary steps of probate if required? Sometimes grief leaves people unable to take any steps. Are the resources available to pay the fees of opening an estate as necessary? Are the people that you have left something to still available to receive an inheritance from you? Are the things that you have identified in your will still things that you have? Is there a charity that you would like to give something to in your current capacity?
There are a multitude of questions that must be reviewed. Do you have a trust? You may have had a simple will plan but now may realize that your current circumstances would be better to avoid probate. Your family members need continuous access to your assets and the freeze that the probate process would create could present a burden to your loved ones. Do you need to consider long-term care? The amount of time when Medicaid reviews transfer of assets is the past 60 months for eligibility is 60 months. During that time if there is what Medicaid determines as an improper transfer there is a penalty. With advanced age and health history, it may be the time to consider planning for a possibility of having to pay on average $8,000 per month for nursing home care. What can be done to protect your assets?
What is the legacy you want to leave? Take time to review your charitable giving decision as you consider the legacy you leave.
So as you enjoy the beauty that will come with this season’s spring blossoms, think also of how to make time to review and renew these cornerstone documents, to assure a beautiful legacy for your loved ones for the seasons that are to come.
By: Aimee D. Griffin, Esq.
Featured in The Washington Informer – April 2016