This is the next post in a series of articles discussing estate planning for Hartford, Connecticut residents in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our previous post discussed the importance of creating an estate plan. This is true for families of all shapes and sizes, regardless of wealth, age, or the condition of one’s health. As the current crisis has reminded us, the unexpected can happen at any time. Creating an estate plan can help ensure that your wishes are honored and that your loved ones are protected. In this post, we will address another equally important matter, that of updating an existing estate plan to reflect one’s current goals. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with an attorney.
If you have taken the time to develop an estate plan at some point in your life, you are likely aware of the benefits of memorializing your objectives and planning for your family’s future. You may not realize, however, that it is equally important to keep your estate plan updated to account for changes in your goals, financial situation, births, deaths, divorces, etc. It is not uncommon for those who have created a Last Will and Testament, Living Trust or Powers of Attorney, to put the documents in a drawer and forget about them for decades. Unfortunately, doing so often leads to unintended consequences upon one’s death. To avoid this problem and ensure that one’s objectives will be achieved, estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically and especially after major life events.
Consider the following example, a married couple in their thirties prepare their Wills and a Living Trust after the birth of their first child. A few years later and after they have two more children, they buy their first house. They have not looked at their estate planning documents in several years and forget to put their house in the name of their Trust, as advised by their attorney. They also don’t realize that their original documents only specifically list their first child as a beneficiary and do not contain provisions for children born later. Tragically, the next year, the wife’s mother, who was chosen to be their first child’s guardian if needed, passes away. If something were to happen to the married couple before they update their estate plan, many of their original wishes may not be honored. First, they would not have likely intended for only one child to inherit their assets. Second, their home may be treated as a probate asset rather than transfer to their Trust, which may lead to a potentially lengthy and expensive legal process. Finally, the person they intended to care for their children is now deceased. Updating the plan at the birth of additional children, the purchase of major assets, or the death of a family member would ensure that these problems are avoided.
Individuals should recognize that estate planning goals and objectives will change throughout their lives. Having an estate plan is a wonderful way to protect one’s family, however, failing to update the plan can lead to disastrous consequences. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, this may be the right time to review your estate planning documents. If you need assistance with an estate plan, contact our office today to speak to a Hartford lawyer. We also service the 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.