Do your important legal documents reflect our changing times? Is your Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, and Trust growing mold on your shelf? Here are some basic questions to ask yourself:
Do your documents address our digital age, the new laws, and the undisputable fact that we are living longer, but not healthier lives?
Are your assets property “tied” or “funded” in your Trust?
Do you have the right beneficiaries on your IRA’s and other retirement assets?
Do you still have the right type of trust given new chapters in your life?
Are the people you previously named as trusted persons with legal authority still important in your life?
And, importantly, do your documents give trusted persons the legal authority to make decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated?
I meet with people every day who have old and out-of-date estate planning documents. Those documents must be updated to provide the protection they need, address our new laws, and reflect current choices and preferences. Most importantly, I meet with people and their families who are concerned that their memories are failing, that they need care or assistance in the home, or who recently received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or Mild Cognitive Impairment. Although we hate to think about it, every person should plan for the possibility of incapacity, and in doing so, our legal documents must include instruction and legal direction for that possibility. Our documents should address medical advocacy, HIPAA releases, and the ability for a trusted person to make health and financial decisions for us if we cannot. Additionally, the ability to protect assets if skilled nursing care is required is critical, especially if there is a spouse.
Make sure your legal documents address what the statistics show – that incapacity is on the rise, the cost of care is skyrocketing, and the cost of handling chronic diseases such as dementia can easily bankrupt a family. Make sure your legal documents reflect what you want, who you want, and how you want it – NOW, not 15 years ago. Everyone needs appropriate and up-to-date legal documents to ensure they are protected.