Only through estate administration are the true impacts of estate planning revealed. In many instances, planning done for one’s family that was suitable ten or twenty years ago can lead to difficulty upon subsequent death. Periodic reviews and appropriate updates ensure your wishes will be honored. During estate administration, Ms. Young often has to explain how the intent of a loved one has been frustrated by the passage of time and changes in the law or changes in that loved one’s assets. For example, one testatrix put a specific bequest of particularly identified CDs in her will in order to help with a great-niece’s college education, but then sold those specific CDs during the thirty years between the date of her will and her death. That specific gift was then no longer available for the great-niece, and the aunt’s thoughtful planning was undone by her failure to review and revise her estate plan periodically.
Periodic review of one’s estate plan can help prevent trouble down the road for surviving loved ones. During estate planning, Ms. Young takes the time to review prior estate planning documents and to gain an understanding of the client’s wishes for any changes or updates. For example, one couple had wills prepared by other counsel in which each left the other the full estate but their contingent legatees varied: in the will of one spouse the house was left to the executor and in the will of the other spouse the housed passed as part of the residuary. After a thorough discussion, the clients realized a minor change in the words they used to describe to their other counsel what they wanted to happen resulted in a major change in how the estates may have been distributed. Fortunately, the timely review of their documents allowed Ms. Young to draft replacement wills that better reflected their wishes.