Jan 15

A stale plan may be worse than no plan at all

One of the most common mistakes when it comes to estate planning is assuming that you never need to think about it again once your plan is in place.  Many times, after the meetings with the attorney are over, the plan is drafted, and all of the documents are executed, the entire process is forgotten.  The plan sits on a shelf waiting to be carried out, sometimes decades later.

When it comes to carrying out your wishes, if things get contested or need to go to court for some reason, the court will give great deference to your wishes, and truly try to carry out your intentions.  This is where the problem of a forgotten plan comes in.  When you go through the effort to actually document your desires by completing a full estate plan, the court rightly assumes that this represents your desires.  If the plan is years old and has never been reviewed however, it is possible that many circumstances have changed in and around your life.  Relatives move, relationships change, children grow up, people get remarried.  These are just some of the things that can have an impact on your desires.  Yet the old stale plan is still there, reflecting wishes that you no longer hold.

This is why it is vitally important not to think of estate planning as a one-time transaction.  Instead, you should be in regular contact with your legal advisors to go over changes in the law, changes in your circumstances, or changes in family dynamics.  At Lopez & Wilmert, LLP, we have an active program to encourage exactly this type of ongoing communication.  We offer to sit down with all of our estate planning clients at least once every two or three years to perform a complementary review of the plan to make sure it still fits.  We review any changes in the law since the last review meeting, and we discuss how things might have changed regarding life in general.  This is by far the best way we have discovered to make sure that the plans we create do not fail later.   Best of all, clients do not need to think about scheduling their plan reviews.  Our tracking system allows us to proactively remind clients when the time comes, or when major legal developments take place.

If you are interested in the estate planning services of Lopez & Wilmert, LLP, with our unique approach to plan maintenance, please feel free to contact us in either of our offices.