Sometimes people put off creating or updating their Massachusetts estate plan because some life event is going to happen in the future like a marriage or birth. The issue with putting it off is that if something happens to you before then, you’re not prepared with a proper estate plan. Life events occur throughout our lives. It’s better to get an estate plan that notes your current wishes in place now so you know it’s there in case you need it.
Once you create your estate plan, we recommend that you review it every three years keeping in mind that you want it to reflect your current life situation and goals. Has a trustee or beneficiary passed away? Have new family members been born? Have you gotten a divorce or remarried? Have you moved to a different state? If someone in your family has become seriously ill, you might want to shift the distribution of assets to help provide for their increased financial needs.
So, how can you update your Massachusetts estate plan?
You can make a codicil if you would like to amend your will. A codicil is a separate document that states changes to the will. If you have only a few simple changes, this is a good idea and very cost effective.
If you have several changes to your will, it makes sense to create a new will which will revoke the old will. A new will reduces any possible confusion. There’s no added piece of paper (i.e., a codicil) that goes along with the will that could be lost.
Whether you do a codicil or a new will, you can work with your estate planning attorney who will ensure the following happens:
- It must be in writing.
- It must be signed and dated by the person creating the will or codicil.
- It must be signed and witnessed by two adults who aren’t beneficiaries of the will or codicil.
- It’s a good idea to have it notarized. (It simplifies the probate process.)
- The codicil should be stapled to your original will.
Revocable trust documents often include a clause that tells you how to amend it. You need to follow those instructions. If you have a couple of simple changes, you could make an amendment, which means writing down your changes and attaching the amendment to the original trust. If you have several changes, you should do a restatement, which means replacing the old trust with a new one. Revocable trusts don’t require notarization unless real estate is held in the trust, but we do recommend it. The people who created the trust (“grantors”) would need to sign and date the amendment or restatement.
Health Care Proxy
This is a brief document, so to update it you would just create a new one. It must be in writing and signed and dated by the person who created it in the presence of two disinterested, competent adult witnesses (agents noted on the health care proxy can’t be witnesses). Notarization is recommended.
Durable Power of Attorney
Creating a new one is the best approach. A durable power of attorney must be in writing and signed and dated by the person who created it. It must be signed by two disinterested, competent adult witnesses. Notarization is recommended. Many financial institutions will not want to rely on a power of attorney unless it has been notarized—a process that helps to authenticate the document.
There is no time like the present to create or update your Massachusetts estate plan. As an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney, I can work with you to put a comprehensive estate plan together to protect you, your family, and your assets. Contact us today for a free consultation.