Ask the Expert: Keeping My New Year’s Resolution

Q. I did my estate planning with your firm several years ago.  Since then, so much has changed– I got remarried, have two grandchildren, and I bought a new home. I promised myself that this would be the year that I update my estate planning documents (and convince my daughter’s family to do their own planning). But it is now December 13, and I have not yet made my appointment. How can I get started with updating my estate planning and how do you charge for these kinds of updates?

A. Many people look for reasons to procrastinate when it comes to doing or updating their estate planning. However, it’s important to move forward and move it back to the top of your list in the new year, especially since you’ve had some exciting changes in your life that will have a significant impact on your estate.

Once you have done your initial estate planning, an annual estate planning “checkup” can be just as important as visiting your doctor or dentist for an annual wellness visit. Vast sums of money have been lost through missed estate planning opportunities and family battles over documents that had not been updated. In addition, an annual estate planning “checkup” can flag tax saving opportunities and asset protection opportunities occasioned by changes in the law, the economy, and your personal circumstances.
Keep in mind that even if no changes are necessary, you should annually sign updated Powers of Attorney, because some financial institutions won’t accept a Power of Attorney more than a year old. Similarly, the older an Advance Medical Directive is, the less likely it is that it will be honored by a doctor or hospital.

Don’t let too much time pass between reviews of your plan — the cost to your family if you neglect your plan could be disastrous.

You asked how you can get started. To begin the review process:

  • Locate the originals (or copies) of your estate planning documents.
  • Review the Estate Planning Summary (a one-page list, located at the front of the binder).
  • Determine whether the people you originally named to handle your affairs upon your death or disability are still the people you want to take on these important tasks. (If changes are necessary, please do not make notations on any original document, although it is fine to mark up a copy.)
  • Review the Article in your Trust which lists your Beneficiaries. Are these still the people who should receive your assets upon your death.

You also asked how much it would cost to update your documents. The good news is that because you’re a member of our Lifetime Protection Program, there will be no charge for us to update all of your documents. Our Lifetime Protection Program allows you to update your planning documents once a year, helping to ensure that you aren’t leaving unfinished business for your loved ones. By being a member of our Lifetime Protection Program, you are entitled to:

  • Annual Review of your estate plan
  • Free Modifications of any document if there are changes in the law, changes in your circumstances, or just changes in your wishes.
  • Free Phone Calls at any time if you have a question about your existing estate plan.
  • Free Seminars and Newsletters, which can both remind you to maintain your estate plan and help educate your family members and other loved ones about it.
  • Free DocuBank Renewal. If you agreed to allow us to include your Advance Medical Directive in the DocuBank electronic registry, then we will pay your annual DocuBank enrollment fee. This ensures that doctors and hospitals will be able to immediately download your most recent Advance Medical Directive (and your important medical information) in an emergency.
  • Electronic Document Storage and Distribution. Your signed Will, Trust, Powers of Attorney and other Estate Planning documents have been scanned into our electronic database (backed up daily by three redundant methods) and will be stored there for your future access as necessary. At your request, we can upload these documents Docubank so that you can retrieve copies for yourself. With your permission, we can also provide access to electronic copies to anyone who might need such access.
  • Free Quality Referrals. I have been in practice in Northern Virginia for over 26 years, and I know the top professionals in all fields of the law.
  • Personal Discounts. Lifetime Protection Program Members enjoy a discount on any additional or upgraded legal services our firm provides.
  • Priority Service. Our Lifetime Protection Program clients always get priority service and receive our highest level of attention.

In addition, since you mentioned convincing your daughter’s family to come in for estate planning, we offer family members of our Lifetime Protection Program clients a 10% discount for any legal services we provide.
For more information, please call Jeannie Farr at 703-691-1888 or email

If a friend or a loved one doesn’t have an estate plan, now is the time to get started. They can learn more at and call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.