I recently handled a call that brought home how important it is to review your estate planning documents after big life changes. It may seem like a small thing that can be put off for “when you have time,” but these seemingly inconsequential documents can actually have a huge impact (for the better) on your life when kept properly up-to-date.

My caller had recently brought her mother with Alzheimer’s from California to Arizona, planning to take over the caregiving responsibilities from her sister.  The mother took a turn for the worse and my caller had to have her admitted to a mental health facility—only to learn that her mother’s California power of attorney (which appeared complete with mental health powers) did not meet the requirements of an Arizona statute, which requires specific language to admit a patient to a 24 hour mental health facility.

Sadly, my caller’s choices were now fairly limited; either get an emergency temporary guardianship followed by a permanent guardianship (an expensive prospect), or return her mother to California.  Neither of these choices was very appealing to the caller and her family.

All of this could have been avoided with a little advance planning and proper review.  Health Care Powers of Attorney and Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney are governed by state law and the laws vary from state to state.  In the case of my caller, it was an unfortunate confluence of circumstances that conspired to the detriment of a loving family.

Be aware of the importance of reviewing your estate planning documents when you’ve had recent changes—or anticipate changes—to your family circumstances. A quick meeting with a trusted advisor may help you uncover unexpected obstacles and take care of a problem before it even arises.  You will sleep more comfortably knowing that your affairs are in order; and that with good, competent advice your affairs will stay in order.

It is a complicated world, and difficult enough to handle unfamiliar situations as your family ages without the handicap of denying yourself the benefits of a knowledgeable and experienced advisor.  Please call our office and make an appointment to ensure your family is protected by the most up-to-date estate planning available.