Five Reasons To Update Your Will

Now that you have a will, you may think that you are done. However, it is important to check your will periodically and make the necessary changes to ensure that your final wishes will be followed.

Here are some reasons to update your will.

  • Any changes in your family. If you get married, divorced, have children, or lose someone that you love, it is important to make sure that your will gets updated. You may adopt, become a grandparent, lose a family member, or have another big change to your family which means that you want to add or subtract someone from your will.
  • Any changes in your relationships. You may want to make sure that some of your friends get some of your things. However, what happens if you are no longer friends? What about some of the new ones that you may acquire throughout your life?
  • If you move (especially to another state). If you have moved to another location or state, the laws may be different. This simply means that you may have to make some changes to your will. Be sure to visit a local attorney to make sure that your will still is valid and applies.
  • Any changes to your assets. Anytime you buy or sell a home, get some extra money, or even lose some, it is important to update your will. Anytime that you get a new insurance policy or pension plan, you may have new beneficiaries to add.
  • Give it a regular checkup. You should probably just glance at your will on a regular basis to make sure that it is exactly the way that you want it.

Whether you think you have had any changes in your life or not, it never hurts to check over your will at least once a year. However, if you have any changes in your family and friends, you should update it, as well as if you have any changes to your assets.

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

Avoiding Trust Litigation

The intention of a revocable trust is to avoid litigation and conflict upon the death of the trustor or primary beneficiary. Unfortunately, poorly worded or unclear trusts, or contentious beneficiaries can sometimes undo all the good intentions of an estate planner. There are no guarantees, but to avoid potential pitfalls, the estate planner should keep a few things in mind.

  • Determine the trustor’s intent. Upon the death of the individual, the primary means of contesting the will or trust will be challenging the intent of the trustor. This is especially true if the individual suffered from any kind of dementia or mental defect. If there is any question of the trustor’s mental status, a doctor’s affidavit should accompany the trust.
  • Amend trusts to reflect changes in tax laws. In the current political climate, tax laws and estate laws are changing rapidly, and can affect formulaic bequests (negatively and positively). To ensure the trustor’s intentions are met, keep the trust bequests current with tax laws.
  • Include a mediation or arbitration clause in the trust. If the trustor agrees, a clause specifying that disputes must be resolved (or attempted to be resolved) through mediation or binding arbitration can help in preventing future litigation. The majority of disputes involve breakdowns in communication, so professional mediators can be of great assistance in ending arguments.
  • Clarify everything. Don’t let legalese obscure the intent of the trustor. If the intent is to remove an individual from the trust, or to fund certain properties, the trust should say so as clearly as possible. The clearer the language, the clearer the testor’s wishes will be when the trust or will is finally read.

The estate planner needs to think of all these things ahead of time, because the trustor and the family and other beneficiaries won’t, until after the shouting begins in court. By writing clearly and keeping abreast of changes to tax and other requirements, much difficulty can be prevented in the future.

To be completely honest, estate planning can be a tricky task to tackle.  Those who actually make an attempt at developing an estate plan have made a big step because many people never even take the first step towards estate planning.  A huge number of people have no Will, and the majority of them have children.  Dying without a Will means leaving the well-being of your children unprotected.

Without a well-drafted Will, your unexpected death may mean that your teenage son ends up having access to significant amounts of money when he is not yet capable of making good decisions with that money.  Likewise, your small children might end up being given to a family member that you would not want raising your children in your absence.

Even if you have a simple estate, you should still have a simple estate plan.  A simple Will allows you to choose when your children will receive your money and who will care for your children if you are suddenly not able to do so.

Do you need an estate plan? Do you need to update your current estate plan? Contact us today for more information.

Wills and Estate Mistakes of the Rich and Famous

Celebrity deaths immediately capture the public’s attention but quickly fade from the spotlight as popular culture marches on. The aftermath of a celebrity death can be far more interesting, primarily because of the estate planning mistakes that many celebrities make in their wills.

Heath Ledger is a prime example. The Oscar-winning actor whose portrayal of the Joker in the Batman trilogy created a Will before he died in 2008. He left his entire $20 million estate to his parents and sisters, but gave nothing to his daughter, who had been born after Ledger wrote the will. The actor’s relatives remedied this omission by putting significant assets into a trust for her. The lesson here is that Wills need to be updated periodically to reflect changes in circumstances.

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, also created an estate plan before his untimely death. That plan included a trust, but many of Jackson’s assets were left outside of that trust. Because he failed to follow through on his plan, Jackson’s estate has been in and out of probate court several times.

Unlike Jackson and Ledger, the musician, Prince, had no Will or estate plan at the time of his death in 2016. Without a Will, his assets are set to be distributed to heirs per the intestacy rules in the State of Minnesota, but a substantial portion of those assets will be depleted by legal fees and government estate taxes.

This list of celebrity Will mistakes goes on and on as fame and glory blind the rich and famous to planning for their own mortality. Fortunately, we can take some instruction from their mistakes not only to make our own Wills and estate plans, but to keep those plans fully up-to-date. Ford + Bergner LLP helps residents of Texas and other states to develop estate plans that maximize the value of their assets for their heirs while minimizing estate taxes and probate costs and expenses. Please contact us for assistance with your own will and estate plan.