“I Love the 70’s . . .” Or so the slogan of the VH1 TV series goes. That show has a number of celebrities reminiscing and poking fun at all kinds of things that came out of the 1970’s. Things such as bell bottoms, disco, mood rings, the Brady Bunch, Watergate, exploding Ford Pinto’s and so on. While this comical stroll down memory lane may be amusing, one thing that is not so fun is your Will dated in 1975.
Here are a few problems that come with not updating a 40 year old (or so) estate plan. First, many estate planning lawyers have changed how they practice this area of law. In a bygone era, it was common to have only a Will, but no Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive. So many of my clients who do update old Wills also get these additional and important estate planning documents to address the new reality of our complex world.
Another problem is that when you were young you may not have had any significant assets so your Will was probably very simple and didn’t address tax or asset protection issues. Today you may need to protect your estate from Washington State estate taxes or from uncovered medical bills such as the cost of long term care.
For some people, a Will may be so outdated that your named executors died before you. This means a few extra steps in the probate process when an executor is not named in the Will. Or perhaps your Will is not “self-proving” which means you will need to find the witnesses to testify they watched you sign your Will. Of course, these witnesses from 40 years ago may themselves be deceased or cannot be found. If the witnesses cannot testify the Will cannot be admitted and you will have an intestate estate as if you never had a Will. In such an event, the disposition of your assets may be quite different from what you wanted.
All of these issues, big and small, can be addressed by updating your estate plan now. So if you were wearing bell bottoms and doing the Hustle the last you made a Will, now is as good a time as any to bring your estate plan into the 21st century.