As summer is now in full swing and we are spending more time with our loved ones, why not take a few minutes to ensure that your estate plan is in line with your needs and goals? Many people think that having an estate plan prepared is a one-time thing. But after you get your will, advance directives and (possibly) trusts finalized and executed, it is still imperative to check in from time to time. How often you should review your estate plan varies from individual to individual, however if it has been more than 5 years, or if any significant life events have occurred or are on the horizon, it is imperative to review your estate plan. Some significant life events which may affect your estate plan include birth or adoption, death, children becoming adults, marriage, divorce, life altering diseases or injuries, or the opening or closing of a new business. If an important event has or is about to occur in your life, it is definitely a good time to update your estate plan.
When reviewing your estate plan this summer, be sure to pay attention to your advance directives. Advance directives include a power of attorney, which grants your agent the authority to act for you in legal and financial matters; a living will, which lets your doctors know your wishes in the event you are in an extreme comatose condition with no chance of recovering; and health care proxy, in which you appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are incapable of expressing your wishes. In December 2020, New York Governor Cuomo signed legislation to change the power of attorney statute which took effect June 13, 2021. A power of attorney properly drafted and executed prior to the June 13th date is still valid. Going forward, however, it is crucial that any newly prepared power of attorney conforms to the new law.
When choosing an agent for your power of attorney or health care proxy, it is important to choose someone you trust to act responsibly and competently. If your agent has died, becomes unavailable, or has simply lost your trust, it is vital that you update your power of attorney and health care proxy to appoint someone with whom you have faith in. Updating your health care proxy is important and will prevent vital time from being wasted while you may lay in a hospital unable to communicate or if you have changed your mind regarding life sustaining treatments. The same is also true for your living will. You should make sure to speak with your agent to let him or her know your wishes.
When reviewing your old will or trust, be sure to consider the changes that have occurred in your life between then and now. A will which pays your estate out over 20 or 50 years to your children is a wise decision when your children are very young. However, if your youngest child is in their 30s or older, such a provision may no longer be necessary. Check your estate planning documents to see if distributions are made over a fixed period, outright, or when your beneficiaries reach certain ages, and consider whether these limits on distributions still make sense given the age and current life circumstances of your beneficiaries.
At Adler Law, we will update your estate plan, ensuring that your new will and advance directives conform to your wishes and the updated laws. Call Adler Law today at (516) 876-1105 to schedule your consultation.