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Philip Seymour Hoffman – dead at age 46.

Philip Seymour Hoffman passed in February at the age of 46. He was a successful actor with a family. Nobody plans to die in their forties but it happens. Fortunately, Hoffman left a last will and testament. However, not only was it old and outdated, but it was apparently drafted by a real estate attorney. Unfortunately, many lawyers include wills and trusts or estate planning in their list of practice areas. When deciding to use an attorney to assist you with your estate planning, hire an experienced estate planning attorney.

As time passes, laws change, as they did in 2011 for the Durable Power of Attorney in Florida. A durable power of attorney provides for the ability to manage a persons financial affairs. If you have a durable power of attorney which was signed before the change in law, financial institutions have begun rejecting them. Imagine the unpleasant surprise when mom or dad are hospitalized and daughter visits the bank with Durable Power of Attorney in hand, only to be told that the document is out of date and useless.

Hoffman appears to have left his estate to the woman with whom he fathered three children. It includes a trust for one of the children who was born when he made his will, but may have left the other two out. Unfortunately, Hoffman was single when he died, or in a common law union, which further complicates matters. Married spouses are recognized and usually afforded greater protections and flexibility under state laws.

Clients should speak with their attorneys periodically. Family situations change over time often necessitating updates to estate planning documents. Children become adults and get married. Grandchildren are born. And sometimes, family squabbles arise. Your lawyer needs to know about what is going on in your family in order to keep your estate planning up to date.

Be proactive and contact your attorney every five years. Like cars, estate planning packages often require a periodic tune up to keep them working as they should.