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Law Changes Since 2000 That Impact Estate Planning

estate planning laws

Estate planning laws, for the average Joe or Joanna, do not change very often. However, the changes that do happen are very important to incorporate into your estate planning documents. Many of us do our estate planning documents and then toss them into a safe with a huge sigh of relief. You are entitled to that sigh, but this does not mean you should not revisit those documents on a regular basis. If it’s been quite a while since you have looked at your estate planning documents, now may be a good time to review them. This is especially true if your estate planning documents are from the last century.

I addressed the need to review your estate planning documents in my blog, OBSOLETE TRUSTS. This blog will look at this issue from a different angle.

LAW CHANGE #1: HIPAA.

HIPAA is the law that says that your medical records are private. It basically puts a fortress around your medical records. The good news is that your medical records are basically protected. The bad news is that if you are out of it, and someone needs to make medical decisions for you, they need to get into the fortress.

The main document that allows someone to make medical decisions for you is the Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. This is also the main document where it says that if that person you named needs medical records in order to make good decisions for you, then HIPAA should move aside. You actually say you are waiving your HIPAA privacy rights in order for the person you named to get access to your medical records. Unless you have named a literal knight in shining armor, this fortress is impenetrable without waiver language in writing and signed by you.

LAW CHANGE #2: MENTAL HEALTH POWERS OF ATTORNEY.

Arizona law gives you the ability to name someone to lock you in that nice padded cell. This person is named in your Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney. If this brings back memories of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, you are not alone. The law says that you can be involuntarily committed to a locked psychiatric ward for 72 hours.

Let’s work on the assumption that you really are a danger to yourself and to others and need this commitment. Let’s also assume you need more than 72 hours of care. This Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney allows your loved ones to avoid the need to go to court to keep you locked up. Avoiding court is a very good thing to do.

LAW CHANGE #3: DURABLE FINANCIAL GENERAL POWERS OF ATTORNEY.

If you have an old Durable Power of Attorney for finances, you may want to consider reviewing and updating it. Some years ago, the Arizona legislature required that new language be put into these Powers of Attorney. In bold or all caps, there must be official language that when distilled down into simple English says: “IF YOU MESS AROUND WITH MY MONEY, YOU ARE IN A BOATLOAD OF TROUBLE”. Wouldn’t it be great if legal documents could say exactly this without adding all the formalities?

LAW CHANGE #4: SAME SEX MARRIAGE.

Same sex couples who have estate planning documents from before their marriage should review those documents. The documents should reflect that their status is now married/spouses rather than living together/partners. How your assets will be handled in the event of a divorce is different as a married couple than how they would have been handled as two single individuals living together. If you are a same sex couple and have named each other as beneficiary on different assets, the fact of the marriage does not impact those beneficiary designations. Several laws need to be changed to accommodate same sex marriage and no doubt that will take some time.

Get in contact with me today to make sure your estate planning affairs are in order.

This blog is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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