Lucky you if you have an “Ozzie and Harriet life” with a stable family, one house that you live in, and a lifelong career with one employer. With an Ozzie and Harriet life there are few surprises and few changes that we have to adapt to. But we might now have an Ozzie and Harriet life. We might have more than one marriage, we might have blended families with children from more than one marriage, we might have kids who left the family because of drugs and crimes or sadly passed away. We might change jobs, change homes, acquire second homes, and we might even win the lottery.
When you have changes in your life, you need to be sure that your plans for the future, including your legal documents that are supposed to guide your future, are updated and reflect those changes.
Getting divorced? If you fail to change certain documents your soon to be ex-spouse might remain your heir unless you change your will and trust. Your ex-spouse might even still have the power to decide your future medical care unless you remove this authority from your living will or advanced health care directive.
Elder Law Attorney Martha Patterson reminds us that these documents including a will and trust are not automatically updated. You must update them yourself and crossing out a name and entering a new name on a legal document isn’t considered to be a valid update. You must create a new will or a new trust.
Updates must be made when you get a diagnosis of a serious health condition and when you get married or divorced or welcome children into your family or if a spouse dies. Sometimes the laws change — and that might require a change also. Really, you don’t want an ex-spouse telling your doctors what kind of medical care you want when you’re incapacitated.