Just the other day, clients came to me to review and update their planning documents. They’d had the documents prepared a couple of years before by a local attorney who had since passed away. Their financial advisor was doing a cursory review and told them he thought something wasn’t quite right.
When I reviewed them I could tell that the documents had been generated by some sort of ‘Mad-Libs’ software (read more about when, and when not, to rely on estate planning software).
For example, in reviewing the Durable Power of Attorney I noticed that it referenced a law that had been repealed years ago! It was a perfect example of an attorney who practices ‘forms law’; someone who dabbled but didn’t stay up on changes in the law and its practice.
You can imagine their concern when I had to explain that their Durable Power of Attorney wasn’t valid. Luckily we were working together to spot these surprises before a crisis hit the family.
Routine changes and updates to our laws are only one reason you should be reviewing your estate plans regularly with your attorney. There are numerous ways an estate plan can fail without regular ‘maintenance’ checks:
- Your assets change. Distribution of assets are a big part of your estate plan. Which means every time your assets change, you need to think about your estate plan. Buy a new home or second piece of real estate? Switch banks and forget to incorporate your trust? Inherit stocks from a parent or grandparent? Your family will be dealing with probate… exactly what you were trying to avoid.
- You change jobs. No one ever thinks about how a new employer or a new role can impact their estate plan. With a new job comes new benefits. New benefits require new beneficiary designations. Beneficiaries may change depending on the benefits in question, your broader estate plan goals, and your life stage at the time of your job change.
- Your family and friend group evolves. The people you choose to help your family when you die or become disabled might be perfectly suited right now, but not later. People age, move away, recede into the background of your life. New people may appear who are better suited to step into the important roles you need them to fill.
The bottom line is: You can’t possibly know all the reasons your estate plan might need updating. And you shouldn’t have to know.
Your attorney knows the rules of law. You know what’s going on in your life. That’s why the attorney-client relationship has to be collaborative.
I need to hear from you as much as you need to hear from me. We work together over time to make sure your family is protected and will be taken care of when you pass away or if you become disabled. At any stage.
Think of it this way: You don’t get one clean bill-of-health; you see your doctor regularly. Because things change. The medical practice evolves, treatments come and go, you age, your health changes.
You don’t get your car serviced once. You bring it in every few thousand miles. Sometimes it just needs an oil change; sometimes your mechanic discovers a serious safety hazard that – undetected – could have left you stranded.
And I’m guessing you talk with your financial advisor periodically. Sometimes the check-in will be to make sure everything is still on track; sometimes you’ll have completely new goals to discuss. And for sure your financial plan and approach has changed from when you were in your twenties, to your forties, and will change again when you hit 75.
It’s the same for your relationship with your attorney. “Checking in” is as important for maintenance as it is to address new, urgent concerns.
I know a lot about the law. I have a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctorate degree. I’ve worked in the legal profession for nearly 30 years. I’ve worked with thousands of clients, taught other attorneys, and led bar groups of my peers. Between you, me and my colleagues, there’s really no problem we can’t figure out.
But there are two things I absolutely cannot know, and neither can you: 1 – when you’ll die or if you’ll ever become disabled. 2 – what the laws will be on that day, what your family will look like, what your assets, benefits, bank accounts and goals will be.
When we work together to create an estate plan, we’re putting a plan together that will protect your family on an unknown date in the future which will have uncertain circumstances across all aspects of your life.
Working together, we will create the Right Plan for Right Now. We have to continue to work together to make sure it stays the Right Plan for Right Then. That’s accomplished through a collaborative relationship with regular and frequent communication about life events, law events, education, career changes, dreams and goals, and changes in family structures and assets.
So how do you know if you have the Right Plan for Right Then? I’ll explain how Ingle Law accomplishes this for our clients in our next article.
In the meantime, if you’re concerned your plan has become outdated, or you’re ready to talk about finally getting your planning done, CLICK HERE to let us know you’d like to hop on the phone and chat. Easy peasy. No pressure. We’ll talk about your goals, and the planning solutions that could work for your family.