It is never a good idea to make handwritten changes to your Will or Living Trust. The major reason for this is because while you think your notes are clear, they may actually cause confusion or even litigation after you are gone.
In light of these tough economic times, many are looking to cut costs wherever possible, but your estate plan is not something that you should take lightly. Your intent needs to be clear. Your hand written changes can often be ambiguous and subject to different interpretations.
After you pass away, how are the people left administering your estate going to interpret those handwritten notes? Maybe you were just making notes on a copy in contemplation of making changes to your estate plan; however, those changes may be treated as an amendment. More importantly, if you want the changes to take affect after you die, they might not be upheld.
There are very specific requirements that must be followed in order for a Living Trust or Will to be considered valid and upheld in court. For example, you have to be at least 18 years old and of “sound mind.” For a Will, the document must be signed by the person creating the Will and signed by two disinterested witnesses who are both present at the same time. Trust documents are notarized. These requirements help to prevent forgery/fraud and to ensure the signer is free from duress, menace, and undue influence.
With Living Trusts, all legal heirs and beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of the trust including all amendments. Therefore, significant handwritten changes are likely to be challenged, because the Trustor’s intent is not clear. For example, if the beneficiary previously stood to get a lot of money, they may challenge arguing undue influence, duress or incapacity, a reason why the Trustor did not intend to reduce their share.
If the reason you are thinking of making handwritten changes is to save the cost of attorney fees—it’s better to spend the fees now to do the job right, rather than your estate spending thousands of dollars in litigation. Additionally, the emotional cost to your loved ones is something most people want to avoid. This can be prevented with effective planning and proper execution of amended estate planning documents.
If you have changes you would like to make or simply want to review your estate plan, we are happy to assist you with both. Contact us at (650) 463-1550 to schedule an appointment to review or make changes to your estate plan, ensuring you have the best plan in place and that it meets your current family situation.