As the end of life becomes less abstract, everyone has the tendency to review their life and often their estate plan as well. Consequently, some decide to radically change their plans. Deathbed revisions can however create dangerous challenges to any estate plan if not accomplished correctly. The Wall Street Journal considered this matter in a recent article titled “Changing a Will at the Last Minute.”
Trusts or Wills are important documents. Not surprisingly therefore, drafting an estate plan “on the fly” or redrafting one from the hospital bed raises the red flag. Since your estate plan expresses your final intentions in black and white, if there is any room to question the truth, seriousness, or sanity (yes, that is a big one) of your black and white intentions, then the entire plan can be thrown out. Against this backdrop, pause for a moment of serious self-reflection before making any changes to your estate plan under circumstances that could attract greater scrutiny later. For example, ask yourself “why do I need to make this change now and not before?”
The simple truth is that your last-minute revision can be utterly intentional and utterly necessary. For one, our thoughts about life, family and charity likely become crystal clear when the end becomes real. There may be every reason in the world certain changes must be made now and not before. Then again, the legal environment changes constantly and sometimes the estate plans must be updated to save the family fortune from taxes or protect loved ones.
Bottom line: there has to be a seriousness and thoroughness to your planning whenever created and while last minute revisions to your estate planning documents might be required, they must be done correctly or risk causing more harm than good. Successful estate planning means working closely with competent estate planning counsel. This is not a “do-it-yourself project.” For that matter, proper planning now may lead you away from the need to annotate or change your estate planning documents later.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (November 10, 2013) “Changing a Will at the Last Minute”