Judge pounding gavelThis is the next article in our series on how proper estate planning may help ensure that the heirs of an individual can avoid the probate process after losing a loved one. Our last article discussed the benefits of avoiding probate. In addition to saving the heirs time and money, avoiding the process can reduce infighting and can help to preserve familial relationships. Retaining an experienced attorney is an important step in the proper handling of your affairs. In this article we will discuss the need to keep your estate plan up to date. If you or a family member are in need of assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.

An out of date estate plan can result in heirs being subjected to the probate process

There are two situations in which heirs may be subjected to the probate process. The first is when an individual dies with a valid will which covers assets that are not otherwise included in a trust and do not automatically pass at the time of death (such as bank accounts). The second includes situations in which an individual dies without a valid will. In such an instance they are considered to have died “intestate” and their assets will be divided in an order which has been pre-determined by the state. If an individual passes away without updating their estate planning documents, and the plan is out of date, then the surviving family members will likely go through probate to deal with the distribution of new assets or the inclusion and exclusion of new heirs. This can, in part, defeat the purpose of having an estate plan in the first place as the outcome would likely not match the final wishes of the deceased.

The foregoing is best explained by way of example. Suppose Joe is divorced, has two children, and owns a fully paid for home. He places the home and his other assets in a living trust, so that they may pass to his two children without the probate process. Joe subsequently remarries. Also, Joe’s new spouse is a single parent and they complete a formal adoption so that Joe may be the legal father of her child. Joe subsequently buys a new home, in his name only, for he and his new family to live in. He also accumulates other assets which are never made part of his living trust and he does not update his will. When Joe passes, the new home and other assets will be subjected to the probate process. Furthermore, Joe’s adopted child will have a claim against these assets as will Joe’s new spouse. These assets will be divided according to a pre–determined order which will likely not match Joe’s final wishes. Also, in situations such as this, infighting often breaks out between Joe’s prior children and his new family. This could have been avoided if Joe had kept his estate plan up to date as his life’s circumstances changed.

Contact a Hartford lawyer in order to ensure that your estate plan is kept up to date

The best way to ensure that your estate plan is kept up to date is to stay in regular contact with an attorney and to periodically review your documents with counsel. Your representative will take steps to make sure that you understand how changes in your life are impacting your estate plan. Also, they will suggest changes and follow up with you regularly to make sure that your interests, and those of your heirs, remain protected. Our Hartford estate planning lawyers have been serving the greater community for decades and we take pride in the level of service which we offer. If you are in need of assistance then contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

We also service the Connecticut areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.