For those in New Jersey who completed their estate plans many years ago, a sense of security is often present. These individuals and families know that they have taken the steps needed to ensure that their accumulated wealth will pass on to their chosen heirs as intended. It is important to note, however, that many legal changes have taken place over the years, making it important for individuals to conduct periodic estate planning “check-ups” to ensure that their needs are still being adequately met.
For example, estate plans created prior to 2003 may lack the proper provisions required to give a loved one the authorization to make medical decisions on one’s behalf. Changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enacted in 2003 impose strict limitations on how certain health information can be disclosed without an individual’s permission. The best way to address this issue is to draft either a health care power of attorney or a durable power of attorney that gives one’s chosen representative the authorization to make medical decisions on one’s behalf.
Another example lies in changes that took place late in the year 2010. At that time, the federal tax exclusion amount was increased to $5 million, and it has increased according to inflation to the current level of $5.43 million. Estate plans created prior to that change may include complicated provisions that were intended to avoid estate taxes. A far simpler planning approach could now offer a better fit.
Anyone in New Jersey who completed his or her estate planning many years ago could benefit from scheduling an appointment with an attorney to review his or her existing plan. In some cases, the provisions outlined in the existing documents will still meet one’s needs. For others, however, a better approach may be available, and an update could save both time and money for the loved ones who will eventually make use of the estate planning documents.
Source: Forbes, “Why Your Will May Be Out Of Date“, Dan Prebish, April 28, 2015