Every year you go for a checkup at your doctor’s office, right? You go to make sure that your health is in order and if the doctor finds anything, that he or she can address it immediately. A legal checkup offers you the chance to do the same to ensure that all your legal affairs are in order and if something needs attention, that your lawyer can help you with any issues that arise.
Annual Legal Checkup
So why not get a legal checkup too? Most people are familiar with the concept of an annual medical examination. Very few people or businesses, however, regularly review their legal and financial affairs with their attorney. Changes in one’s family/business or financial situation coupled with changes in the law make it advisable to take a fresh look at your “legal health” from time to time. After all, there are changes in your life every year just like with your physical health. Every time you sign something or make significant life changes, it could affect you legally.
So what types of situations may lend themselves to a “legal checkup”? Here are just a few:
- Insurance documents. Review and documents with your lawyer every two to four years, or more often if your personal circumstances change. An important aspect of your legal checkup is a review of all the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, pension plans, and all other assets which carry a death benefit. This is particularly true if one is recently divorced. Quite often, people overlook changing the beneficiaries of insurance policies or retirement benefits after divorce leading to disastrous results; where an ex-wife or ex-husband is still listed as beneficiary.
- Marriage. Marriage should also lead to an examination of your legal documents. For instance, a couple who own their home together as “joint tenants” prior to marriage, should change their tenancy to “husband and wife as tenants by the entirety” after their marriage. This type of tenancy is still a joint tenancy where the survivor of the couple maintains sole ownership of the home, but it now becomes much more difficult for a creditor to sell the home to satisfy a legal judgment.
- Estate Planning. The basic estate planning documents consist of a will (with or without a revocable trust), durable power of attorney, and health care proxy. These documents should be reviewed on a regular basis to assure that they properly serve the purpose for which they were originally intended.
- Wills. Many people forget that wills should be updated regularly. Make sure that your will does not list old neighbors from another state as guardians for minor children. Some list defunct banks or other institutions as trustee for minor children. Others list now deceased relatives as executor of the will.
- Most legal documents. Most legal documents, unless set up as irrevocable, must be modified as circumstances change. Changes can generally be made quickly and inexpensively. A will may be easily modified by a simple codicil which, in most cases, can be prepared by an attorney, immediately if necessary. For instance, divorce should automatically trigger a review of one’s current legal documents.
- A new job. When you start a new job, you usually have to sign a bunch of paperwork including an employment contract. If it includes a non-disclosure agreement or a deal that determines who owns your intellectual property, you need to understand how that affects you. Plus, your old job might have had contractual provisions to prevent you from recruiting prior co-workers. You’ll find out about all of these things if you have someone look over the paperwork for you.
- Major financial events. Whether you’ve just won the lottery or gone deep into debt, money affects your legal well-being more than almost anything. Ignoring the legal landscape when it relates to taxes or bankruptcy is a recipe for disaster. But you can avoid the problem by dealing with each financial change when it happens rather than letting them snowball.
In a legal checkup your attorney may suggest other ways to protect you, your business, your family, and your home. Have you filed a declaration of homestead to protect your home? Did you know that this protection doubles at age 62, but only if you file a new declaration at the Registry of Deeds? Did you know that you might need a “living will”?
Your family attorney is trained to ask the right questions. When you next call your family physician to make that annual physical appointment, call your family attorney to schedule your legal checkup appointment.
Contact CPLS today at 407-647-7887 or 877-647-7887 or fill out our contact form to schedule a visit with one of our attorneys to get your “legal checkup.”