If you are wondering if Aretha Franklin’s handwritten wills are valid, join the club. With an estate valued at least $80 million, it’s good news that some kind of will was found to divide up her assets. However, says Daily Reckoning in the article “Urgent: Your Will May Need Updates,” there’s no guarantee that those wills are going to hold up in court.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this situation? Absolutely. It proves how important it is to have a properly executed estate plan and one that is also up to date. It’s different for every family and every person, but if you’ve done any of the following, you need to update your estate plan.
Moved to a different state. The laws that govern estate law are set by each state, so if you move to a different state, your entire plan or parts of it may not work. If your estate is deemed invalid, then your wishes won’t necessarily be followed. Your family will suffer the consequences. For example, if your old state required only one witness for a will to be valid and you move to a state that requires two witnesses, then your executor may have an uphill battle. Some states also allow self-written wills but have very specific rules about what is and is not permitted.
Bought new property. People make this mistake all the time. They assume that because their estate plan says they are gifting their home to their children at their death, updating the new address doesn’t matter. However, it does. Your estate plan must specify exactly what home and what address you are gifting. If you have a second property or a new property, update the information in your estate plan.
Downsized your stuff. Sometimes people get excited about getting rid of their possessions and accidentally discard or donate something they had promised to someone in their estate plan. If your plan doesn’t reflect your new, more minimal lifestyle, your heirs won’t get what you promised to them. Instead, they may get nothing. Therefore, review your estate plan in order to distribute the possessions you do have at the present time.
Gifting something early and forgetting what was in your estate plan. If your plan specifies that your oldest son gets your mother’s mahogany desk, but you gave it to your niece two months ago, you may create some awkward moments for your family. Whenever gifting something with great sentimental or financial value, be sure to review your estate plan.
Having a boom or a bust. If your finances take a dramatic turn, for better or worse, you may create problems for heirs, if your estate plan is not revised to reflect the changes. Let’s say one account has grown with the market, but another has taken a nosedive. Did you give your two children a 50/50 split, or does one child now stand to inherit a jumbo-sized pension, while the other is going to get little or nothing?
Had a change of heart. Has your charity of choice changed? Or did a charity you dedicated years to change its mission or close? Again, review your estate plan.
Had a death in the family. If a spouse dies before you, your estate plan may list alternative recipients. However, you probably want to review your estate plan. You may want to make changes regarding how certain assets are distributed under your estate plan. If a family member who was a beneficiary or legal representative, then you’ll need to update your estate plan.
Your estate planning attorney will review your estate plan and talk about the various changes in your life. Life changes over the course of time, and your will needs to reflect those changes.
Reference: Daily Reckoning (Sep. 12, 2019) “Urgent: Your Will May Need Updates”