Old Trust OK?


I often have clients who are perplexed as to whether the Wills they signed many years ago are still good. To help you answer that question for yourself, I have developed a checklist of common events that trigger the need for a new Will. You can review the following checklist to help you think things through for yourself:

A.  Have there been changes in your family?

____ Do you have grandchildren you wish to include in your estate planning?
____ Have your children’s circumstances changed (e.g. Are you concerned about their receiving an inheritance and having it impacted by a divorce, creditors, etc.)?
____ Are there new people in your life that should be named in your will (e.g. birth, adoption)?
____ Are you planning on getting married and need a prenuptial agreement?
____ Have you gotten married since you signed your old will?  (This is an exceptionally important time to sign a new will even if you make no changes since the new marriage impacts the old will.)
____ Have you filed a state registered domestic partnership?
____ Have you moved to a new state?
____ Has someone you named as a beneficiary in your will passed away or become disabled?
____ Do you have a new charity you would like to remember?
____ Are your personal representative, attorney-in-fact for finances, attorney-in-fact for health care, guardian, and/or trustee still the right fiduciaries for you?

B.  Have there been changes in your assets?

____ Has the value of your estate substantially increased or decreased?
____ Have you acquired real estate outside of Washington?
____ Have you reviewed how your IRA/401K beneficiary designations fit with your will/trust?
____ Do you need help thinking through how the beneficiary designations on your life insurance, investment accounts, and/or bank accounts fit with your will/trust?
____ Would a Revocable Living Trust better serve your goals?

 C.  Do you need to plan for incapacity?

____ Has there been a change in your or your spouse’s health?
____ Have you been denied long term care insurance and are you concerned about long term care costs?
____ Should you include authority for gifting in your durable power of attorney?  Do your goals and family situation make this a good idea?
____ Does your health care directive clearly state your desires about the medical treatment you want if you cannot speak for yourself?

 D.  Do changes in the law dictate changes in your estate planning?

____ Community Property. If you are married and new to Washington, it is very important to review the new options you have in your estate planning documents now that you are in a community property state.  This is true even if you have moved from another community property state since each state’s community property law are distinct.
____ Law Changes.
A change in federal law – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA – has made it advisable to revise health care powers of attorney to comply with federal law.
The estate tax law is always changing and should be periodically reviewed if your asset level puts you at risk.[1]

E.  Passage of Time.

____ Although you probably do not need to have an attorney review your documents every three to five years, you yourself should read your documents periodically.  (Doing so has the added benefit of being an insomnia aid.)  Read your documents with this list in hand to see if any issues are triggered.

(The above should not be construed as specific legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only.)


[1]      The life-time exemption from estate tax is as follows:


Federal Exemption Amount

Washington Exemption Amount



















Elizabeth A. Perry, a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, has been helping Clark County residents with their estate planning needs for over 20 years. Her practice emphasizes wills, trusts, probate and Medicaid planning. You are invited to call her to schedule an appointment or sign up for a class at (360) 816-  2485. ©Liz Perry 2016 updated 1/2016

(The above should not be construed as specific legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only)

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