Many folks see springtime as a time of renewal, new life and a fresh start. When you start your household cleaning this year, think of your important papers, too.
Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament, a Financial Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will Declaration. Too many people see these documents as a once-and-done proposition. Nothing could be further from the truth. They need to be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they still meet your needs. Times change, and so must your documents.
How do you know when it’s time to make a change? A good time frame is that you should review your documents every three to five years. Tax, trust, estate and financial law changes may impact your documents.
For example, the repeal of the Ohio estate tax rules several years ago allowed many folks to simplify their planning, eliminating the need for complicated Trust Agreements. The ramifications of the most recent tax changes are still being evaluated. That could signal a trip to the attorney to find out if they affect you.
Changes in family situations can mean updates for your will or powers of attorney. Examples are illness, death, marriage or divorce of a family member, executor, trustee, guardian or beneficiary. A job change or loss also could impact estate planning documents.
If you have started your own business or become involved in a partnership, or closely held corporation, not only might your documents need to be changed, but your tax situation could be affected. A large increase in assets from an inheritance is another signal that it’s time for a review.
Changes in mental or physical health requiring long-term health care planning definitely mean that you need to consult an elder law attorney for guidance. Long-term care is expensive, and you need to plan for meeting those costs or make plans to protect assets and qualify for government benefits.
Finally, changes in your planned distributions or personal needs and goals mean a trip to the attorney to update your important documents. Changes should involve your financial team: your attorney, your financial planner and your tax planner. These updates are too important to do yourself. You need guidance to make sure any changes comply with the law and don’t cost you money.
Take a deep breath of fresh spring air and get on the phone now to make an appointment for a legal spring cleaning. You can then breathe out a big sigh of relief that you are taking good care of yourself and your family.
Laurie G. Steiner is a member of the law firm of Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. She is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and the Ohio State Bar Association. She practices in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid, VA and Disability Planning, and Estate and Trust Planning and Administration.