If you have an estate plan, you have the right to ensure it reflects your wishes. And as time goes by, those wishes can change, which is why it is crucial to update your plan.
That said, as valuable as it is to revise an estate plan, there are ways people do it that ultimately create more complications than they may resolve.
Using the element of surprise
Making surprising changes to your estate plan without sharing them with your loved ones can be very upsetting and could trigger litigation and will contests.
Thus, if you are going to do something surprising, like disinherit someone or make a dramatic adjustment to charitable gifts, it can be wise to do so carefully. Work with your attorney to formally make the changes; discuss the decision with a trusted loved one to provide context and evidence that you know what you are doing.
For an example of what can happen when someone fails to take these precautions, we can look at the late Larry King’s estate plan. According to reports, the legendary host reportedly amended his will, leaving his wife out of it without telling her. She plans to contest the will based on the fact that it was handwritten and her pending divorce with King was never finalized.
Failing to make the revision accessible
Updating your estate plan can ultimately be futile if no one knows about it. Keeping revised versions hidden away without telling someone like your attorney or executor where to find them can leave others with no choice but to use the last known versions.
To avoid this, tell someone about a revised estate plan and make sure they can access it.
Poorly timing your changes
One common reason people contest a will during probate is if they suspect the will does not accurately reflect the testator’s wishes, which can be the result of undue influence, forgery or fraud.
As such, be mindful of when you make your changes. For instance, suddenly making dramatic changes after a fight or reconciliation can be suspicious. If you do update an estate plan after this type of event, work with an attorney and have witnesses present.
Avoiding these missteps will be crucial in updating your estate plan without creating more problems for your loved ones.