Our previous installments on how to review your estate plan discussed how and why to review the more financial portions of your estate plan; for this final installment we will cover how to review the documents that may be closer to your heart: your health care documents and documents pertaining to minor children (such as a nomination of guardian.) Also covered is what is perhaps the most pressing reason of all to regularly review your estate plan—changes in the law.
Health Care– Your health care documents should include: an Advanced Health Care Directive (or Health Care Power of Attorney), a Nomination of Conservator, and a HIPAA Release. If you have minor children you should also have a document giving a close friend or family member authorization to make health care decisions for your child in case you and your spouse are unavailable in an emergency. Take note of the date these were signed, and any changes in your health status. We recommend that Health Care documents be re-signed every 3- -5 years to keep them “fresh”.
Minor Children and Guardianship-Documents pertaining to minor children include your Nomination of Guardian, Exclusion of Guardianship (if you intend to exclude any persons who might otherwise be close family members and have “priority” under the law if you fail to nominate others), and often a Memorandum of Intent. If circumstances or relationships have changed and you are uncomfortable with anybody listed in the documents now serving as guardian, you’ll want to execute a new one. If your minor child is a teen and almost grown he or she may now want to have some input in the process. The Memorandum of Intent is not always an official document; rather, it is your letter of instruction to your guardians and other fiduciaries. As such, this document will probably change the most over the years. The good news is that you probably don’t need to make changes in your Memorandum through our office, however if you do make changes, please let us know or even send us a copy.
Legal Updates-Estate planning is a very fluid area of law. Tax laws have a tendency to change (for example the estate tax law which is slated to expire completely in 2010 and return again in full force in 2011), and incorporating those changes into your documents may be necesssary to keep your plan working the way you intend.
Reviewing your estate plan is not as intimidating as you might think, especially when you know exactly what to look for. Taking an hour now to review your plan may save your loved ones many long hours in the future. Don’t you think it’s worth it? If you feel you need professional assistance, we are here to help.