Where old wills are concerned, the saying, “it’s better to have something than nothing at all” doesn’t always prove true. This year alone at least five of our clients found this out the hard way. I highlight two below.
In the first instance, an adult child passed away unexpectedly, leaving two children that had no relationship with their elderly grandmother. She did not want to leave them an inheritance, but due to the fact that she left her estate in part to her son, “per stripes” (a term that means in the event he predeceased her his share would go to his children) she was now leaving one-half of her estate to these absentee grandchildren. GLG re-drafted her will to exclude them in accordance with her wishes.
In another instance, a terminally ill divorcee left her entire estate to her elderly mother living in a nursing home. She had executed her will shortly after her divorce and didn’t want her minor child to receive an outright distribution. This had two potential unintended consequences: First, it effectively disinherited her only child. Second, had her estate gone to her mother, it would have been taken by the state to repay it for funds used under the Medicaid program for her mother’s care. To make matters worse, when the client discovered this she already had terminal cancer. During the drafting period, she took a turn for the worse necessitating GLG to rush her documents and move up her signing appointment so that she could make these important changes days before her death.
Reasons to review estate documents every few years:
- Change in estate tax laws
- Change in estate planning techniques
- Family members die and are born
- Family dynamics change
- Financial fortunes grow and decline
- Family members suffer a disability, drug addiction, financial crisis, lawsuit, or bad marriage
- People move out of state
- Mistakes in current documents
- People change their minds
As a corollary to this, also review your beneficiary designations.
At GLG, we’re here to help make certain that you and your family receive the most effective estate planning and elder law guidance. We always strive to guide our clients in an intelligent, compassionate, creative, and efficient manner.