Estate planning is a subject many people find easy to put off for another day, even though they realize it is one they should address. Those California residents who have begun the process by creating a will should be pleased with that accomplishment but also realize that executing a will is not a one and done task but rather an ongoing process. Life changes, people change and what once worked may not be viable presently. It can be as problematic to pass with an outdated will as it would without any estate plan at all.
If a will is contested, a plain language interpretation is likely to be followed instead of evidence of what the testator may have meant. For example, if a will provision left a sizable distribution to a named person, who had previously been the decedent’s spouse, but the will was not changed after their divorce, the result could be other than what the decedent wanted. Family law experts indicate divorce is but one of many life changing situations that call for a review of one’s estate planning documents.
The birth of a child, the maturation to adulthood of a child, the marriage of a child, the death of an heir, the death of an executor, the death of a prospective guardian are all events that may trigger some change in a will’s provisions. Other external events could also cause a testator to rethink the current plan. Changing tax laws or a sudden, unexpected windfall of cash can lead to a re-evaluation.
Many individuals review their will and other estate planning documents at set intervals, say once a year, or soon after a life changing event has occurred. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help determine the proper manner to proceed to protect one’s estate and final wishes.