How Often Should You Update Your Estate Plan?
A good rule of thumb is that you should review your estate plan every three to five years or when there's a big change in your life.
Here's when you should take a second look at your estate plan:
After a big life event
More important than an occasional review is changing your estate plan along with your life. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a new child, the death of a close friend: these are the exact sort of events that should trigger another look at your Last Will and Testament
Rereading your estate plan once every three to five years will catch those issues and allow you to make keep important documents current.
How to change an estate plan
How you change your estate plan depends largely on what documents you need to make current. Commonly, people will file something called a Codicil to Will, which replaces old clauses in your Will with new ones. This is great when you're adding a grandchild to your beneficiaries or removing a certain item or asset from your Last Will.
When you're thinking about changes, sometimes it is easier and less expensive to just create a new estate plan.
The big life changes can cause big changes to your estate planning documents.
Living Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney function similarly. Sometimes, a simple amendment can be made, while other times, a whole new plan is easier.
Many of us have faced hard decisions about what care a family member received near the end of their life. It's always difficult because these choices are so personal that making them feels invasive and uncomfortable, not to mention emotionally taxing.
You can avoid those issues by creating a Power of Attorney and a Living Will.
A Living Will is a legal document that sets out your healthcare wishes in the event you cannot articulate them yourself. It's smart to talk to your primary care physician so he or she can let you know what sort of decisions a good Living Will
(Here, it's important to note we're talking about a Health Care Power of Attorney and not a Financial POA. They can actually be combined if you'd like, but we're primarily concerned with your healthcare wishes in this section.) covers, but we'll discuss the most common below in detail. Think of a Living Will as your signed statement about what kind of care you will and will not accept.
Alternatively, you can create a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney (sometimes called a POA) essentially gives someone you trust the ability to make healthcare decisions for you. Generally, this person is a spouse, close friend, or trusted family member and they are referred to as an "agent." But no matter how well you might know this person, it's imperative you talk with them and let them know what your wishes are.
A Power of Attorney is most valuable when it is made "durable" and includes a financial provision, as it will grant permission to your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf when you can't make them yourself. You can choose how limited or how broad these powers are, but it's important that the person making your healthcare decisions has access to capital to pay for procedures you need. They'll need to be your advocate at the hospital and may need to assert control if there are any disagreements among family members or between your family and doctors.
What kind of scenarios should you cover in a living will?
Your family and doctor may consult your Living Will if you're incapable of making decisions yourself. Since some of us have issues with tube feeding or organ donation, these are the exact sort of issues you should address when creating your Living Will. Here are a few things you'll want to consider: