Clients and potential clients often as "How frequently should I update my estate plan?" The answer is that it depends. I created a checklist for Washington residents for the most common reasons an estate plan needs to be updated.
Changes in the law
Have you moved states since you created your estate planning documents? All fifty states have their own laws that govern the efficient passage of your wealth at death. All fifty states have their own estate tax laws. All fifty states have their own rules for managing your wealth and decisions if you are incapacitated. The bottom line is if you have permanently moved to Washington from another state and now reside here you should discuss having your documents updated by a qualified attorney.
Are your financial power of attorney documents older than 2017? If so, here in Washington a new power of attorney act was effective January 1, 2017. If you created your own power of attorney, or if another attorney created your documents before 2017, then you should consider having your documents reviewed or updated to comply with the most recent changes to the law.
Are your health documents, such as a health care power of attorney, living will or other advance medical directives, dated 2003 or earlier? The federal health care privacy law, HIPAA became effective in 2003. Thus any documents dated before that and even some documents in the years after did not comply with HIPAA and may be ineffective.
In 2012, Congress made major changes to the federal estate tax system. Unfortunately Washington state did not make changes to its estate tax system. The result is a confusing and sometimes conflicting set of rules that we must navigate in order to effectively pass someone's wealth to heirs in the most estate tax efficient manner, avoiding all estate taxes possible. Documents created before 2012 are in danger of being ineffective or cause a higher than necessary estate tax to be paid at death. You should strongly consider having your documents reviewed by a professional.
Role Players Change
Your documents contain a cast of characters who play roles. These may include Executors, Personal Representatives, Trustees, Agents, Guardians for children and health care proxies. If any of these persons has changed or if you want to add or delete some, then you must change your documents.
Changes in value of wealth
Have your wealth holdings (including the death benefit of life insurance policies and retirement account values) changed substantially since you last updated your will or trust? More importantly, since we have an estate tax here in Washington, if your wealth has grown close to $2 mill or more (including the death benefit of life insurance, retirement account values and a spouse's wealth if you are married) then you may end up paying unnecessary estate taxes. You should consult with us about this.
Protecting a spouse
Have the circumstances of your child or children changed? Are there health issues, marriage/divorce concerns, creditor problems, substance abuse issues, disability or other common life problems that would be complicated if they inherit your wealth? Then you should talk with us about some ways protect the wealth that you leave your child.
Do you have additional gifts you wish to make in your will or trust? Or would you like to delete specific gifts you previously made in your documents? Then you should talk to us to make the necessary changes.
Gifts to charity
Do you have a charity or charities that you give to that you may want to provide a gift to at death or a tax advantaged gift during your lifetime? If so, there are some great tax efficient strategies that you should discuss with us.
New kids or grandkids
Did you have a new child or adopt a new child or do you have a new grandchild that you did not previously have when you last updated your documents? If so, speak with us about an update.
Loans or advance gifts
Have you loaned or given a family member money? Often this should be accounted for in your estate planning in order to avoid a family fight upon your death.
Gifts to grandchildren
Do you want to make gifts to grandkids to help them with their education or other future needs? Often grandparents have a desire but not a tool to manage and protect such gifts. Sometimes using a trust to manage a gift to a grandchild can eliminate many concerns and risks. We can help you.
Do you own a business? Has its value gone up since you initially created your estate planning documents? If the answer to either of these is yes, then some discussion and special planning may be needed in order to efficiently pass or sell the business at your death without unnecessary cost, taxes or failure of the business.
There may be other reasons you can think of to review or change your documents. Please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your desired changes.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.