In the first part of this series, I discussed twelve reasons for revising your estate planning documents. Normally I suggest clients review their wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents within at least five years of when they originally signed them to see if they need changing. Usually, you will find someone you appointed to a trusted position who has died or maybe become less trustworthy. Additionally, the law or your financial or family situation may have changed. But the following are additional reasons why you might need to make changes to your documents.
Drugs: Special planning is required for a beneficiary who has problems related to illegal drug use, abuse of prescription drugs, abuse of alcohol. Gifts to those beneficiaries should be under the control of a trustee.
Descendants: Although the welcoming of a child or grandchild is an event to celebrate, if a child or grandchild is placed for adoption or is born out of wedlock, special drafting may be required.
Domestic Partner: Consider whether benefits should be given or withheld from your partner or the partner of another family member or beneficiary and, if given, the appropriate method for doing so.
Disaster: a fi re, a flood, a tornado, or a hurricane could destroy an asset of particular value and cause an unbalance i n benefits among beneficiaries.
Decimation: The collapse of the stock market, for example, could impact a will that designates gifts of large amounts of cash or a valuable property to one person and results in very little for other beneficiaries.
Deportation: With immigration “reform” uncertain, the unanticipated deportation of a trusted employee, caregiver, or proposed executor could disrupt your plan.
Disposition: We’re talking here about your mortal remains and the need for instructions if you have a particular method in mind.
Digital Data: Online banking, automatic bill paying, websites, email, social networks, and hard drives are current examples of the digital world in which most, if not all, of us find ourselves. Most are password-protected and some are encrypted. Arrange for access by a family member, someone who holds your power of attorney, your named executor, or a trusted friend with instructions regarding any specialized content.
Distance: Consider replacing a trustee, executor, or power of attorney holder who is living too far away to provide meaningful assistance on a timely basis.
Domicile: If you move out of the state of Texas, you should have a local attorney review estate documents in light of the laws of that state. A move to a different city in Texas should not have any legal effect, though it could make it impractical or of little help to have guardians and holders of medical powers of attorney located in the former city.
Don’t Do It Yourself: This is a great way for you to complicate affairs so that survivors incur greater expenses especially legal fees.
These reasons are just a few of many reasons included in an article in the March 2014 issue of the Texas Bar Journal written by James E. Brill. Mr. Brill is a distinguished Houston attorney whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate.