Importance of Will Updates: Mom And Dad Unintentionally Made The Nursing Home The Beneficiary Of Their Will

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Why should will updates be done periodically for seniors?

It’s important to keep your will up to date.

Will updates are easy to overlook. However, I’ve been practicing elder law for many years, and, believe me when I tell you, the statement that is the title of this article is one I have heard more than once. Wills that were drafted 30 years ago and more, also known as “sweetheart” wills, that have not been updated could be leaving a lifetime of assets to an unintended party.

I am often asked to review the wills of clients, many of whom are concerned about asset protection to avoid Medicaid spend down impoverishment. Many of the wills I review are “sweetheart” wills. Typically these wills simply leave everything to the surviving spouse. When both spouses are gone, the estate goes to the kids. They are pretty simple and work well for the first 65 years of life when everyone is healthy, and life is humming along. After that age though, when a lifetime of assets have accrued and Medicare and Social Security benefits become part of the equation, most clients really do require trusts and a solid estate and asset protection plan.

The “Sweetheart” Will

Here’s what happens if you have a sweetheart will, your husband (or wife) enters a nursing home and then the spouse who is not in the nursing home dies. The will leaves the entire estate to the sweetheart/the spouse in the nursing home. Now that spouse will have to spend down all of their spousal estate before becoming eligible for public benefits to pay for his or her nursing home expenses. Not good.

When you reach retirement age, you definitely need to protect your assets from disability or catastrophic illness, in addition to the usual tax planning. Having your will reviewed every few years will also make sure unintended parties are not going to be benefiting from your assets. A properly drafted will along with proper trusts will protect your sweetheart and make sure your assets go exactly where they are intended.

The beginning of the year is a great time to review and update wills. Give my office a call to schedule a will review.