So - you have taken the important step of having your Will and other estate planning documents prepared. That's a great first step! Now, before you put those documents away, it is important that you review the documents to make sure that everything is in place so that when you pass away, your estate plan will be carried out the way that you envision.
What do I mean? Well - let me give you a couple of real life examples.
A woman put a great deal of effort into preparing her Will. It contained numerous bequests and details about how she wanted her estate distributed. The largest gift was to a charity. Unfortunately, she did not review how the bank accounts that contained the funds for the gifts were titled. After she passed, her Executor started to administer her estate only to find that the bank account with the most funds was titled payable on death to a third party. As a result, the funds were not available to fund her bequests and all the planning that she did was for naught.
In another example, a gentleman owned a house that had been in his family for a while. It was his intention that the house go to his son. He remarried and put in his Will that his new Wife would be able to continue to live in the house during her lifetime (this is called a life estate) and, after her death, the property would go to his son. Unfortunately, he forgot that he had previously added his new Wife to the deed to the house. As a result, when he passed, the property went to his Wife and not his son as he planned.
How can you avoid this from happening to you?
- One suggestion is to review the Will with your finanicial planner and go over how all of your accounts are titled. Don't assume you know how the account is titled. You may have elected a Payable on Death or Transfer on Death designation when you opened the account, but have forgotten.
- If your Estate Plan includes specific instructions regarding real estate, review your deed to make sure that it is titled in such a way that your wishes can be carried out.
- Review your Estate plan at least every 3 years to make sure that it still does what you intend.
If you have any questions about this or any other Estate Planning matters, please contact L. Theodore Hoppe, Jr., Esquire - Attorney at Law.