Estate Planning & Probate Specialists

Estate Planning & Probate Specialists

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When beneficiaries are unintentionally left out of an estate plan

When it comes to planning an estate, attorneys must keep an eye out for potential problems and issues that could come up later on down the road. For example, what if a Texas grandfather decides to leave the majority of his estate to his grandchildren. He might create several trust funds to dispense his assets out to his beneficiaries over time. However, what if another grandchild is born a couple years before the grandfather’s death, and the grandfather never had time to update his estate plan to include the new grandchild?

Let’s say that three grandchildren are set to receive half a million dollars, which will be dolled out to them in pieces, when they turn 18, 21, 25 and 30. The youngest grandchild, though — who was born after the grandfather created his estate plan — will receive nothing. A situation like this could be enough to divide a family and create disagreements between the youngest child, who may feel slighted.

Generally speaking, unless the will and trust funds do not have specific language addressing grandchildren born after the estate plan was created, the younger grandchild — and any other subsequent grandchildren — do not have a valid claim for the assets. In a situation like this, then, it may be up to the parents to step in and personally gift that grandchild a sum of money to be certain that he or she is equally treated. Alternatively, the parents may not wish to make a large issue of the problem, and manage the younger grandchild’s expectations.

The fact of the matter is, even if a Texas grandfather makes a mistake in creating his estate plan, it will be the responsibility of his estate administrator to follow the estate plan to the letter of the law. An estate administrator cannot coerce other beneficiaries to give up the money they have been bequeathed — even if the administrator believes that the language in a will was not exactly what the will creator intended. For this reason, it is important that estate planners consider all future possibilities closely and work with an expert while devising their estate plans — to limit the chance of a mistake like this affecting the continuity of their families after they are gone.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Revisiting advice on inheritance, co-signing“, Michelle Singletary, Oct. 23, 2014