September is right around the corner, and although this year is different from other years, the fall is sometimes the time we take a look at the things we want to get organized and put in order. Kids should be going back to school, summer vacations winding down, flip flops being replaced by lace up shoes, all giving us a little push towards things we've been putting off.
If you need to put your estate plan in order, or have documents updated or corrected, you should reach out and schedule a time to talk.
It is a good idea to update durable powers of attorney every few years. This is the document that allows others to help you with your finances. Financial institutions are becoming ever more concerned with identity theft and fraud so they like to see a recent document if they are going to let someone handle your finances. The power of attorney can be used if you are unable to act (in a coma), need assistance (undergoing medical treatments that leave you too tired to deal with paying National Grid), or are away for an extended period of time. It should be a trusted person who is organized and reliable.
Your healthcare proxy is another document that should be reviewed periodically. This document names a person who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Although these do not become "stale" the way a power of attorney does, sometimes the person you want to act on your behalf changes. If you get divorced, for example, do you still want your former spouse calling the shots medically? Some people remain close to a former spouse and so WOULD want this to continue, others would prefer a change. Are your children grown up enough to take on this role, or has your prior agent moved away? These are some of the reasons to review who can make your medical decisions. The medical community has become more vigilant about enforcing privacy standards and so we also recommend a HIPAA release that would allow your medical providers to share information with your spouse, family members, or others you have chosen.
Other documents, like wills, trusts, and real estate documents should also be reviewed periodically, for some of the same reasons. If you did a trust many years ago, the successor trustees may no longer be the right people. Your focus may have shifted from providing for young children to protecting their assets if they get divorced. If you have purchased real estate since you first did your plan, did it get put into trust at that time? One of the consequences of the COVID-19 year has been a long backlog in our probate courts, making probate avoidance more important than ever. We have had routine probates taking more than a year to move through the probate court, which can create a significant hardship for your family.
If any of these situations resonate with you, reach out to your estate planning attorney. We have offices in Gloucester, North Andover, Beverly, Boston, and Duxbury and would be happy to hear from you.
Until then, enjoy these beautiful August days!