Florida appears to be experiencing an early “second wave” or, at the very least, an uptick in coronavirus cases. We’ve been hearing from countless Tampa-area residents who have questions about their estate plans, and specifically whether any older documents they already have in place should be updated during the pandemic.
Of course, the answer to that question (like most things in life) is that it depends. Here are some issues to consider if you are worried that an older plan no longer meets your needs:
How Many Years Have Passed Since You Created Your Documents?
As a general rule of thumb, estate planning attorneys advise their clients to take a fresh look at their plan every 2-3 years to see if any changes need to be made. This can help you spot anything in your plan that is out-of-date or goes against your wishes (e.g. someone named in your estate plan has passed away or is no longer a person you want to include in your estate). Additionally, one critical document that every adult needs during the COVID-19 crisis is a Power of Attorney (POA). A POA appoints someone who can legally act on your behalf if you get sick and can’t manage your own affairs for any length of time. However, there are many banks and financial institutions that will not accept a Power of Attorney that is over 12 months old. So even if your will and trust are current, you may still need to have your POA “refreshed” so that it’s honored if your family needs it. Most attorneys also offer complimentary plan reviews as well. Your attorney can help you take a fresh look at your documents while also evaluating whether any recent changes to the laws need to be factored into your planning.
Has Your Life Changed?
If you’ve experienced any significant life changes since your plan was created, it’s probably a good idea to meet with a lawyer for a document review. Such changes include marriage, divorce, purchase or sale of significant assets, birth or death of a child, an adoption, the receipt of an inheritance, or the diagnosis of a serious medical condition. It’s important that your documents reflect a current snapshot of your life so that all assets are accounted for, there’s no dispute about “who gets what” and that ultimately your plan is carried out according to YOUR wishes and not a judge’s.
Have Your Wishes Changed?
We recently heard from someone who created a healthcare directive years ago that stated under no circumstances would she want to be on a ventilator or feeding tube if something happened to her. When she put those wishes in writing, she certainly wasn’t thinking about the coronavirus (because it didn’t exist). But now, she realized that being on a ventilator might be just a temporary part of her care if she came down with the virus… and it was something she did want if it would save her life. The good news is that this person was able to update her legal documents and explain her new desires to her family so they could carry out her wishes in an emergency. If you’ve changed your mind about anything in your plan, you may need to do the same.
Still Unsure? We Are Here to Guide You Through Your Options.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused us all to think deeply about our wishes for our assets, our family, and even our medical care in the event we get sick, can’t communicate, or pass away. However, even people who “thought” their affairs were in order discovered that maybe their documents were out-of-date or no longer reflected an accurate snapshot of their wishes or goals.
If you’re unsure if your current plan is sufficient to protect you during the pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact our Tampa will and trust lawyers at (813) 438-8503 to schedule a complimentary document review.