Your estate plan may include documents that you created decades ago when you first got married or had children. If your wishes have remained roughly the same all that time, you may have seen no reason to change or update your estate plan.
However, not only has your life changed in the last few decades but the rules governing Washington estate plans have as well. If your estate plan is old enough that you drafted a living will rather than an advance health care directive, it may be time to go back over your documents to update them.
What is a health care directive?
Functionally, a health care directive is roughly the same thing as a living will. It’s a document that provides explicit instructions for other people about your medical wishes in the event of an emergency.
If you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself, your advance directive can make your preferences on issues ranging from pain management and life support to anatomical gifts quite clear.
If you drafted a living will years ago, you can draft new documents that integrate all of your prior information. However, it is worth noting that many people’s wishes change as medical technology advances and personal health issues arise. Your medical preferences now may be different than they were when you first created your estate plan.
It may also be time to look over the rest of your documents to ensure that they achieve your goals for your legacy and your protection later in life.
Out-of-date documents may not hold up in court
There are numerous ways in which you can diminish the authority of your estate planning documents. Drafting or changing your documents late in life after you experience cognitive decline might lead to people claiming you lacked the mental and legal capacity to create legally viable documents.
If you die with estate documents older than your children, family members and other beneficiaries may challenge those documents based on them being out-of-date and inaccurate. An up-to-date estate plan with an advance health care directive will give you protection and your loved ones clarity about your wishes if anything happens to you.
Creating documents early and then updating them when necessary will give you the best protection.