Your state planning documents are designed to safeguard you when incapacitated as well as to efficiently pass on your assets when you’re gone. Unfortunately, you should not “do them once” and forget about them. Here are some tips that can help.
1. Review your powers of attorney and verify those agents listed represent your current ideas on who you want to handle your affairs when you can’t. Perhaps your children have grown old enough and they would now be appropriate. Maybe you had listed parents who have since died.
2. Store your documents in a safe and secure location, protected from fire, theft or flood. With the new scanning capabilities it is recommended that you keep an electronic copies. Having photocopies of the original documents stored elsewhere is still a good idea. Paying your attorney’s office to store your documents is often not really necessary.
3. During the next year, be aware of changes the estate tax exemption. With the higher limits expected, it may be appropriate to change the form of your trust. AB trusts will be less common than they used to be. They can add a layer of complexity that you may not any longer need. In general its the simpler the better.
4. If you own real estate, it is probably best that you have a living trust rather than a will.
5. Many people who had estate planning documents drawn up more than several years ago probably do not have a HIPAA Release form that is now needed to allow your representatives to assist you with medical information issues should you become incapacitated.
6. Your adult children (over 18) should have an Advanced Health Care Directive, as well as a Durable Power of attorney and a HIPAA release authorization so that if they are injured, you are in a position to make sure their wishes are carried out.
7. Do not make hand written notes on your documents without consulting your attorney. Fees can be very confusing and may call into question the validity of your wishes in the time of need.
As always, see an attorney who specializes in estate planning for legal advice and documents.