We have since inherited some antiques we want to divide between our children upon our deaths. Should we have everything reviewed?
Yes, if there has been a substantial change in your circumstances such as you inherited property and are not sure you have titled it over to the trustee(s) and adequately addressed distri-bution of the antiques in the trust. A substantial change could also be the purchase of the major trust assets like a time share or new vehicles or the inheritance of other real prop-erty. Likewise if a spouse has become chronically ill, assisted living is imminent for ei-ther of you or if your spouse has died you should have your documents reviewed to be sure they are adequate for the challenges ahead. Similarly you should have the docu-ments reviewed if a remainder beneficiary of the trust, such as an adult child or grand-child is now disabled, is going through a bad divorce, has issues with gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, or has passed away.
While the drafters of estate documents try to think of most contingencies, the law is always changing and sometimes estate documents, while not invalid, would benefit from being updated to comply with new language requirements and standards. Privacy laws such as HIPAA , state court interpretations on gifting provisions in a durable power of attorney, recent changes in estate tax law, and stricter interpretations of name usage due to identity theft issues are just a few reasons for having estate documents reviewed. Many law firms that focus their practice on estate planning offer a maintenance plan where periodic reviews are built in to the original flat fee attorney-client agreement or periodic reviews are offered separately as either an add-on-service or are available for a minimal annual fee. Sometimes folks just like to get a second opinion from a different estate planner. But no matter what stage you are at in estate planning do not be afraid to ask upfront about the cost of legal work.
Couples who did extensive estate plans just before retirement often find they want to tweak their estate documents after five or ten years because they have personally dealt with long term care, probate or other family issues with a loved one. Such clients are a joy to work with because they bring a greater depth to the process of customizing docu-ments and they feel more confident in asking questions and expressing their desires.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.