The most frequent new year’s resolution request that I get is from people who need to create a new estate plan or update the plan that they have. Sadly, too many Americans do not have a will much less powers of attorney or healthcare directives. These documents are extremely important to make sure that your wishes are recorded in the event that you are incapacitated or in the event of death. These topics can be depressing to think about so too many people avoid them or, once prepared, do not update them regularly. To create or update a basic will package is not terribly expensive or time consuming so, if you are in either category, it would be a good idea to put this on your list for the new year.
Updating Existing Plans. If you already have estate planning documents that have not been updated in a while, you may want to dust them off and take a look at them again. Generally, these documents (wills, powers of attorney and healthcare directives) remain valid with the passage of time so it is not the validity that is the worry. The real worry is that the documents that were drafted no longer reflect your wishes or your situation. As a general rule, I recommend a review of your estate planning documents upon a major life event (birth, death, disability, marriage, adoption, divorce, retirement, etc.). If there has been no major life event, then these documents should be reviewed on some reasonable interval. Every year is probably too often (unless you have significant assets that change in nature regularly) but once every three to five years is a good idea. And, best of all, this is fairly easy to do. Just gather up your documents, which is a good exercise anyway so that you can confirm that you know where they are, and make an appointment to see your lawyer and/or your financial advisor.
Creating New Plans. New plans are more work but they can be easier than you might think. If your estate is under $2 million (in the State of Washington) and there are no exceptional circumstances (disability, children with special needs, etc.), an estate plan does not take much time or cost a lot of money. At a minimum, everyone should have a will, powers of attorney for healthcare and financial decisions (plus one for the care of kids if you have minor children) and a healthcare directive. Depending on the type of assets that you have and the size of your estate, a trust may be a good idea also. You do not need to assemble many documents to start on a plan but you do need to have an idea of whom you would like to appoint to serve in the various control roles under your powers of attorney and will.
We generally work with clients that have less then $2 million in assets and are in need of a basic estate plan. Please visit our Estate Planning page for more information our our services and our Fees page for information about our charges. If you just have a few questions, please call as our telephone consultations are always free. Whether you elect to retain us, or someone else, please make sure to have a plan and, if you already have a plan, keep it updated.