Document Review – A new annual tradition
In estate planning- wills, trusts, living wills, etc. – we as attorneys often find that it is the most difficult to get our clients to start the discussion about estate planning. Once we have had the opportunity to sit down to discuss the process and execute the documents it becomes cathartic; that is, there is a sense of relief that their estate is in order. Most individuals I find want to have wills in place to protect their estate and to help their families through the probate process. They want to have their affairs in order.
Now, I am going to propose a new tradition to those that have prepared their estate- an annual review of your estate documents. I am going to suggest that it be April 15th. No, I am not trying to associate your estate planning, which should be a painless endeavour with the pains of tax preparation! What I am suggesting is that since you have your file cabinet open, and are filing your taxes away for safekeeping, you should pull out your will to see that it still protects your estate.
Many changes may have happened during the past year that you may cause you to need to or want to change your will – sale of your residence or vacation home, sale of specific items that were bequeathed to an individual, birth, adoption, or death of a family member, and the divorce of your spouse. All of these thing may have an effect on your estate and your intentions when you originally wrote the estate plan. You may want to read through your documents to make sure that the specific bequests still make sense. Has a family member had a life-changing event that no longer makes the specific bequest the best idea either from a emotional intent or tax consequence point of view?
Often, minor changes to a will can be completed through the use of a codicil. If you find that a change needs to be made, please visit with your attorney as to the best course of action. If multiple changes should be made, perhaps a new will is in order. Even though a new will may be advised, the process will be much simpler than the first time because you and your attorney have had the preliminary discussions about estate planning. Now, you are just correcting your estate.
People create wills for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is to protect those that they care for. An annual review of those documents is the best way to make sure that your intentions are fulfilled in the most complete way. Mark your calendars now!