Q: I signed my will 10 years ago when I was 58 years old, do I need to update it?
A: The short answer is “maybe”, but you should definitely visit a lawyer to review your plan. In general, we suggest clients review their estate plan every five years or after a major life event. Such events include marriages, divorces, births, deaths, retirement, sale of your home, etc. If you are in your late 60s you have either started to receive Social Security Retirement income or you will be receiving it within the next few years. Your age also means that you are probably using Medicare as your primary or supplemental income and you will soon need to start taking required minimum distributions from any tax-deferred retirement accounts. You may also be retired or thinking of retiring. These are all big changes that call for another look at your estate plan.
It is very common as clients age that their children become of age to be able to assist their parents when necessary. When you were younger, you may have named your sister, brother, or best friend as the agent under your health care proxy or power of attorney. The health care proxy lists who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to make them for yourself. When your child was younger, you may not have wanted to give them the pressure of making that type of decision. Now that your child is more mature, it may be time to make this type of change. The same thing goes with financial decisions. With the passing of ten years, you may feel more comfortable having your child be the back up on your bank accounts and other financial decisions.
In addition to changes in your personal situation, there may be legal changes since the last time you met with an attorney. Legislative changes to the power of attorney law, adjustments in the tax code, or the evolution of case law regarding trusts and estates may make certain parts of your plan outdated without you realizing any change has occurred.
In many cases, the aging of our clients calls for a different type of planning than may have been recommended in the past. As clients age, their concerns grow regarding asset protection in the case long term care becomes necessary. While a last will and testament was sufficient at 58 years old, by 68 you may want to look into creating a trust. There is a type of irrevocable trust that can protect assets in the event you need long term care provided through the Medicaid program.
Change is a reality. Changes in your life and the lives of those around you, as well as changes in the law are inevitable. It is important to seek the advice of an estate planning or elder law attorney to make sure you are facing those changes head on in preparing for the future.
- Nancy Burner, Esq. and Britt Burner, Esq.