I always tell my clients to give me a call every five years, just to ask what is going on, such as how old the kids are, whether they have bought or sold assets or moved and bought new real estate. That is what I do with my clients every 5-10 years, although some come in more often and others I have not seen in 15 years; it depends on what is changing in your life; if you have pretty much been on cruise control and I did your trust ten or fifteen years ago, you are probably ok unless you just want to upgrade to a newer trust, since trusts evolve over time.
What Are Some Prominent Life Events that Can Lead Someone to Revise their Estate Plan?
If they have received assets as an inheritance from someone else, they will probably want to change how they will leave their assets, or at least want to add the new assets to the trust distribution scheme and that the newly acquired assets are properly titled in the name of the trust. Often, over the course of many years, people will re-finance their residence a couple of times, and, perhaps unbeknownst to them, the new lender took their house out of the trust and put it back in to their name, so we will have to transfer the residence via a new deed back into the trust.
Some people have more kids, or the kids grow up, or they become problematic, and people decide they want to change their executors, trustees or agents. There are many reasons people come in to make changes as most people realize that, over time, they need to keep their estate up to date; sometimes you have to make changes and sometimes you do not. I have clients who have a very simple trust from 20 years earlier and they are fine, and I have clients who created a trust with me five years ago, before they had kids and now have kids, or before their divorce and they need a whole new estate plan so their ex-spouse does not receive all of their assets.
I once ran into a situation in which someone never updated his will and he broke up with his girlfriend and then died, leaving everything to the girlfriend in the will, while his brother and sister complained that it was unfair, but I had to tell them there was nothing I could do about it because that is what was in his last will and testament. As they say, life happens and when it does, you have to make sure to plan for it.
Can A Customized Estate Plan Deal with Issues Like Mental Incapacitation?
Most people who come to me have either nothing or they have not done what they were supposed to do very well. One reason for this is because so many attorneys are buying a computer program and telling people they know how to do estate planning and the quality of representation is just not what it should be. Too many attorneys try to create an estate plan as quickly as possible and they never really advise their clients properly; they don’t take the time to go over the options for clients with regard to financial management or healthcare powers of attorney. So what happens is that people walk out of the attorney’s office thinking they have it all figured out, when most of the time, they are really not much better off than they were before and some even put themselves in a precarious position because they did not do the documents right.
Estate planning is one area of law that is mostly not done properly. It is pretty easy to prosecute a lawsuit; it is pretty straightforward, but estate planning is just so quirky and has so many layers to it that people really just mess it up all the time. I get calls from people saying that an attorney told them they would do it for a certain price and that all trusts are the same, but unfortunately that is just not the case. That is why when people come to me I give them a very good price, but I am not a discount lawyer and they will not get discount service; I do not think people really understand that.
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