As an estate planning attorney, it is common to see new clients come in to our office that have some old estate documents in place. It is equally common that those documents are often grossly out of date and would cause problems if there were a death or other crisis.
A recent case is a good example of this. A new client came in to our office and brought her prior estate documents. Her Will listed her husband and then her brother as the Personal Representative and as the beneficiaries of her estate. These persons were also listed as her agents on her Durable Power of Attorney. The problem? Both her husband and her brother had been deceased for several years. Fortunately, she came to us before a crisis occurred and her documents were easily updated. However, if she had not, problems could have resulted.
For example, not long ago we had a probate where all of the beneficiaries named in the decedent's Will had died. So what happens? Florida law will provide an answer but that answer may not be what the person would have wanted. Had that person simply updated their Will, the problem would have been averted.
So how often should you review your estate documents? We generally recommend that every 3-5 years you should meet with your estate attorney and review your documents. The exception to this timeframe is if you have any major life change. For example, a birth, death, divorce, retirement, or diagnosis with a serious illness would all be good situations for an immediate review of your documents. The good news about your documents being out of date is that it's not too late to have your attorney update and fix them.