Need for an Annual Legal Checkup

This entry was posted on January 20, 2015

Just like the way you go to the doctor for an annual check up, you should do an annual check up of your estate plan.

Estate Planning Basics: Which Estate Planning Documents Should You Have?

At the initial appointment with our clients, the Koldin Law Center, P.C., reviews your current Will, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.

We often find that many new clients to our office do not have these documents; and if they do have these documents, these clients are often surprised by how outdated they are and no longer represent their wishes.

Even our current clients who meet with us for file review appointments often discover that their current legal documents need to be updated to meet changes that have occurred in the lives of their families.

Many of our first time clients come in with a Will, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy which were signed when their children were young and before any grandchildren were born.

Often clients come in with Wills that appoint other relatives to serve as Executor and provide that if any of their children die before them, the deceased child's share would go to his/her siblings rather than to the grandchildren. Often the Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy appoint other relatives or friends rather than their children who might now be adults.

Why You Should Have an Annual Checkup For Estate Planning Documents

Even our current clients should review their documents on an annual basis. New grandchildren may have been born. Children may now be married or divorced. Children's lives may have developed issues such as disability, illness or financial problems. All of these changes might make it desirable to make revisions to your Will, Living Trust, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.

Common Estate Planning Document Shortcomings

Many first time clients to our office have Powers of Attorney that do not contain the important gift rider. They also have Wills that do not meet their current wishes. Finally, their Health Care Proxies lack important instructions regarding end of life decisions relating to life support and artificial nutrition (feeding tubes) and hydration.

The Importance of a Gift Rider for Estate Planning

Most family attorneys likely only view the gift rider in the Power of Attorney for the purpose of making gifts and may have concluded that most of their clients don't need this power. Elder Law Attorneys, such as the Koldin Law Center, P.C., recognize the critical importance of this gift rider and the devastating results if it is not properly drafted.

If someone enters a nursing home and faces the loss of his/her entire life savings, the gift rider allows the agent under the Power of Attorney to transfer assets and take other steps to protect assets from being lost towards the cost of care and to qualify the person for Medicaid coverage. Without such a gift rider, it could become difficult, if not impossible, to protect assets. The Koldin Law Center, P.C., has prepared an enhanced Power of Attorney with a gift rider that includes a thoroughly completed modifications section that provides additional broad gifting powers we feel are important if a catastrophic illness occurs.

The Importance of a Health Care Proxy

Under New York law, your Health Care Proxy agent does not have the authority to make health care decisions for you about artificial nutrition and hydration (nourishment and water provided by feeding tube and intravenous line) unless you have made your wishes known to your agent. The Koldin Law Center, P.C., prepares Health Care Proxies for clients that always include specific instructions on your wishes regarding removal of life support, artificial nutrition and hydration. Unless the client instructs us otherwise, the Health Care Proxy we prepare also makes clear that you desire whatever treatment necessary for your comfort and to alleviate pain.

Estate Planning: What Should You Do?

The message here is that you should annually read all of your legal documents and make sure they still reflect your wishes. Make sure your Will has your desired beneficiaries, make sure your Power of Attorney has a gift rider, and make sure your health care proxy includes instructions on artificial nutrition (feeding tubes) and hydration. If not, call the Koldin Law Center, P.C., and we will review your documents with you and discuss how you might want to make changes. There is no fee for the initial consultation.

At the Koldin Law Center, P.C., with offices in Syracuse , New York, we have more than 50 years of experience helping individuals plan for immediate crisis and long term care. Our attorneys are available to discuss your estate planning options.

For your annual legal checkup, contact us.