Estate Planning: Should old estate planning documents be replaced?

Q:How long are wills good for? Can you renew them or do you have to make a new one? How about powers of attorney?


A: Wills don’t expire or become invalid over time, so once you have created one, you won’t need to renew or replace it after a certain number of years. However, you will want to make sure to update it following certain life changes.

The same is also true for a power of attorney – it does not expire, especially in the case of a durable power of attorney. You can, however, choose to give a POA a time limit that is specified in the body of the document, such as a limited POA created for a specific transaction or period of time.

There are certain situations where you may want to replace a will or POA, and you will definitely want to make sure they are kept up-to-date and revised when necessary.

Estate planning documents should be written as to plan for the types of changes that each of us encounter during our lifetimes. The revision made to these documents are rarely the result of the passage of time, but rather, the result of changes in circumstances.

For example, perhaps you choose a child to serve as personal representative, but then you later have a falling out with one another. You may decide that you want to name another child to serve as personal representative instead. Or you might name a child as your attorney-in-fact in your POA who later moves far away. In this case, it may be more sensible to name someone who lives close to you and who can help you out with day-to-day needs.

Finally, although POAs don’t usually lapse due to time, those who receive them may worry that they may have been revoked or replaced at some point if the document is very old. In such a case, you can choose to attach an affidavit or certification to the document that affirms it is still in effect and that the person presenting the POA is the duly appointed and acting attorney-in-fact.

For assistance creating or updating your estate planning documents, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.