Common Cents – Trends in Estate Planning

I have noticed some new trends surfacing in estate planning. Over this past year, I have seen a subtle shift in the mindset of many clients.

Many clients are re-examining their Personal Planning documents to assess whether they have appointed the best (or most appropriate) people in their legal documents. The four documents are Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Representation Agreement, and Health Care Directive.

They are looking at their Power of Attorney and questioning whether they have the right person appointed as their Attorney. Likewise, they are re-examining their Health Care Representation Agreement to see if their current Representative’s views, beliefs, and values align with their own.

For example, I have had parents return to my office to discuss the options of changing their Power of Attorney. Those changes always beg the question, “Why do you want to change the documents?” My clients start to squirm a little and are unsure about how much to share. Finally, the dad says their son has always been a little farther “right” than they are. His answer gives me the opportunity to ask: “What do you mean?”

Mom continues with the story, commenting that their son has gone beyond where both parents feel comfortable; they no longer want to have him named the alternate Attorney in their Power of Attorney documents.

Dad adds that their son has joined a cult-like organization and has become vocal against the pandemic and vaccination. Mom shares that the son “isn’t a bad person” but, in their world, he has crossed the line.

The pandemic has created such a polarizing effect; it is causing families to reflect and re-adjust their Personal Planning documents. As always, I tell my clients that the documents I draft reflect their views at that moment in time … they are allowed to adjust and change their documents as time progresses.

I confirmed with my client that the change in their son’s worldview would justify an update of their documents … their documents must reflect their current values and wishes. They are also allowed to change their documents again in the future. The documents are not set in stone: they are fluid; we can change them as life goes on.

The trend of updating documents and adding missing documents to your Personal Planning portfolio is a significant movement. Representation Agreements will become more of a focus for people so they feel confident they have the right individuals in place to make health and personal care choices on their behalf.

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