Planning your estate early in life is always a smart idea. You never know when the worst case scenario will strike, so being prepared for it can not only give you peace of mind, but can prevent your family from experiencing unnecessary emotional pain and stress above and beyond what they would already be feeling, should tragedy strike.
However, life changes. Relationships change, people become ill. The estate plan you put in place when you were happily married in your early 30s might need quite a bit of adjustment after going through a messy divorce at 50. Our estate planning law firm recommends an annual maintenance plan, which ensures that your plan evolves to reflect changes in your life. Of course, with so much information available “for free” to the public, many people take a more DIY approach to estate planning, but here’s why that will fail you nine times out of 10…
One of my clients lost her husband when they were in their early 50s. She herself had cancer at the time of his passing. I reached out to discuss updating her estate plan in the wake of her husband’s death, and in light of her illness. I suggested that she create a revocable trust, which would ensure that her beneficiaries receive their share of her assets in a protected trust, administered by one person.
This client, however, had a will which listed the beneficiaries for her various accounts and created a transfer on death deed for her house, which would pass ownership along to her three siblings. She insisted that this will was enough, and declined the offer to update her estate plan.
A few months ago, sadly, her cancer returned and she passed away.
This is what her family is currently dealing with, on top of the grief they are already feeling for their deceased sister:
1. The house was transferred to the ownership of my client’s siblings upon death, as wished. However, none of my client’s financial accounts were transferred on death, so there is no money available to continue to pay taxes, utilities or insurance on the house.
2. The siblings need to sell the house, but their signatures—and the signatures of their spouses—are needed. The siblings live in different parts of the country, making this a huge hassle.
Upon the death of my client—as this estate planning nightmare unfolded—one of her sibling’s asked me why the estate was setup this way. So the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I led my clients towards an estate planning solution that would have completed eliminated this hassle from the lives of her siblings, but she chose not to move forward with it.
When planning an estate, people tend to think about things in terms of which family members get which assets. They think that a will is enough because it outlines their assets and the beneficiaries that these assets should be distributed to. But many people don’t stop to think about how the distribution of these assets could throw the lives of their loved ones into complete disarray. Working with an estate planning attorney can help ensure a seamless transition of assets upon your death, making it possible for your family to grieve…without the added stress of having to pay taxes, insurance, and utilities on your assets, and travel the country to sign paperwork…amongst many other potential inconveniences.
Ready for an Estate Planning Review?
The team of elder law and estate planning attorneys at Deliberato Law Center can help review your current estate plan to determine if any updates are needed. If you’d like to schedule a review—or need to plan your estate altogether—complete the brief form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.