ESTATE PLANNING, JUST THE BEGINNING

Estate Planning Chalkboard

After having completed your estate planning documents including a Power of Attorney (POA), Appointment of Healthcare Representative (HCR), Designation of Conservator (DC), Living Will, also called Advance Directive (AD) and your Last Will and Testament, who do you tell or give copies of it to? First, this is a subjective question. The answer is whomever you wish. No one has a right to know or receive copies, but at the very least you should tell your loved ones, or at least your fiduciaries, where your documents are in the event of a major occurrence. The only document I caution people on providing copies of is the POA because it is generally active from the moment you sign it and can be misused if temptation is there even with a trustworthy agent. By not distributing the POA, there is no temptation.

I cannot tell you how many times we receive calls from a client’s child stating, “my Mom had her estate documents done by you, she now has dementia and doesn’t know where they are, can you send me a copy?” Unfortunately, unless your Mom is competent enough to authorize us to disclose the information, we cannot provide copies to anyone (or even admit she is our client) unless it is the fiduciary named in the Last Will and your Mom has passed away. The reason for that is two-fold. First, those documents, and even the fact that we represented her, are covered by attorney-client privilege; second, it is also possible Mom went to another attorney sometime after meeting with us and changed those documents so we don’t even know if they are current. Of important note, estate planning is not “done” once you have your documents. You should compile a list of assets, accounts and investments even if you do not include the balances just so your fiduciary will know where to look for assets when the time comes. It is also not uncommon for people to put together a list of personal property and who they want to have it after they pass away. Most of these items are not of significant monetary value warranting that they be listed in the Last Will, but are usually more of sentimental value to both the decedent and the beneficiary. In addition, in today’s electronic world, it is not a bad idea to include a list of login names, passwords and PIN Numbers for any electronic accounts including email and bank accounts. Finally, one’s estate plan should be reviewed and updated periodically. How often depends upon what is going on in your life and if it effects your estate Plan. For example the loss of a spouse or a child will generally have a major impact on your estate plan and you should review your documents with your attorney.

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