Summer is just around the corner and many of you are trying to head out the door on vacation. One thing that seems to be the last item on the “to do” list is to review and revise your estate plan. When you do review the plan and realize that changes need to be made many clients either quickly make handwritten changes and initial those changes or send us a quick email with the requested changes but no follow through as to when they wish to execute the changes. Many of us do this in order to cut cost or to save time. This is not the best course of action because while you may think the changes seem clear, they may actually cause confusion or even litigation after your death because they changes have not been completed in accordance with the trust terms.
In light of these tough economic times, everyone is looking to cut costs whenever possible, but your estate plan is not something that you should take lightly. Your intent needs to be clear from the face of the document and disjointed notes are often ambiguous and subject to different interpretations.
After you pass away, how are the people left administering your estate going to interpret those handwritten notes or will they even have the email you sent regarding changes? Maybe you were just making notes on a copy in contemplation of making changes to your estate plan; however some beneficiaries may argue that the changes are an amendment. Much more importantly, if you want the changes to take affect they might not be upheld.
There are formality requirements that must be followed in order for a will or trust to be considered valid and upheld in court. The reason we have these requirements is to prevent forgery/fraud, duress, menace, and undue influence.
So, if the reason you are thinking of making handwritten changes or sending us an email thinking it is to save the cost of attorneys’ fees—it’s probably a better idea to spend a little money now to do the job right since litigation costs could easily cost your estate thousands of dollars. Additionally, the emotional cost to your loved ones is something most people want to avoid, and can be prevented with proper execution.
Any one of our highly qualified estate planning attorneys can assist you reviewing and updating your estate planning documents. Please visit our website at www.falkandcornell.com for a complete list of our services and view our profile.