Estate plans should be reviewed every year and updated as needed, which is why we have an ongoing Client Care Program (for more information see https://www.sslawoffices.com/client-care/) . It goes without saying that updating documents correctly is just as important as preparing the original estate plan. Unfortunately, mistakes can make revisions invalid and result in disputes, settlement issues, and unintended heirs. Here are 4 common mistakes when updating estate plans and how you can avoid them.
1 – Keeping Changes Secret
We see this theme in movies all the time. Someone dies and heirs are shocked to know that a last minute change was made to a will. Family members argue that the change could not possibly be valid while new heirs fight to have their inheritance enforced. A court battle ensues and a judge is left with deciding whether there’s enough evidence to support either argument.
Having no witnesses other than those directly benefiting from a change can appear suspicious. This issue can often be avoided by making others aware of your plans. In cases where that conversation may be difficult, discussing it with attorneys and other neutral parties can be helpful.
2 – Making Changes Without Witnesses
A recurring requirement within estate planning documents is a space for witnesses to confirm that you were acting of your own free will. Sometimes people make changes in private by marking up existing estate planning documents with a pen. Such changes are prone to being contested, especially if they were not signed in front of a notary or witnesses. With something as important as your estate plan, you should follow formal protocol to preserve the validity of your edits.
3 – Not Consulting with an Attorney
Another of the most common mistakes when updating estate plans is not consulting with an attorney. Sure, some changes might sound straight forward, but can you be sure that you are using correct language, formats, and procedures to apply a change? Unless you are an attorney, you may make subtle but impactful mistakes. Additionally, you may not realize how other aspects of your estate plan may be impacted. For your protection, always consult with an estate planning attorney!
Other Common Mistakes When Updating Estate Plans
These are just a few examples of common mistakes when updating estate plans. There are many other potential pitfalls. If you have changes to any of your estate planning documents, contact our team for assistance. We can guide you through finalizing those decisions and properly documenting them.