October 20-26, 2014 is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. In 2008, prompted by the estimate that over 120 million Americans are without up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the events of sickness, accidents or untimely death, Congress passed a resolution so recognizing the third week of October every year.

If you are part of the majority of adult Americans who do not have an estate plan, we urge you to start the process immediately. Even if you do have a plan, take the lesson of NEPA Week to heart, and consider how up-to-date your plan is.

If your net worth has changed significantly or if you have had any of the following life changes since you made your plan, you should consider an update: (1) marriage, divorce or remarriage (you don’t want an ex-spouse to unintentionally end up with a share of your inheritance), (2) birth or adoption of a child or grandchild (be sure you have named guardians for your children and that previously named guardians are still appropriate), (3) your child has reached the age of majority, age 19 in Alabama (be sure they have signed a power of attorney and HIPAA notice so you can have access to their medical information since they are now adults for that purpose), (4) a child, grandchild, spouse or partner has become a person with special needs (you don’t want to unintentionally disqualify a grandchild from Medicaid by leaving them an inheritance directly), (5) you are part of an unmarried committed couple (without a Will or Trust, your partner may not receive any of your estate under state law).

In addition to life changes, the federal estate tax law and State of Alabama trust and power of attorney laws have been through multiple, significant changes in the last several years. Your old plan may not work as you expected if the law has changed since you put you it in place.

If you do not have an estate plan or have had one of the life changes listed above since you last reviewed your estate plan, or if several years and multiple law changes have passed since you last looked at your estate planning documents, you need to meet with your estate planning attorney to discuss your estate. Any member of the Sirote Estates, Wills and Trusts group will be happy to be a part of that discussion with you. Contact one of us and let’s get started.