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Estate Planning: Small Updates Now Equals Better Results Later

Life is a mystery. No one knows what will come tomorrow, let alone weeks, months, and even years down the road. Therefore, it is important to have certain estate planning documents in place. Whether it be a health care power of attorney, living will, last will or trust, estate planning documents are the only way to guarantee that your wishes are carried out both in life, if you become incapacitated, and in death. In this regard, estate planning is like insurance, something you hope not to need, but is great to have in case life throws a curve ball. However, as important as it is to create an estate plan that reflects your individual needs and wishes, it is just as important to revisit these documents from time to time to ensure they still accurately reflect those wishes. As time passes, our families and assets change. Property is bought and sold, marriages and deaths occur, children are born or adopted, and situations change. A document created today may not accurately reflect your wishes twenty years from now. Consequently, estate planning is a continuing process that requires the occasional update, which can easily be accomplished by simply amending the already created documents. Failure to make the occasional amendment can have unintended results later. For example, the Indiana Court of Appeals recently decided a case that involved their interpretation of a thirty-six year old will. In 1976, Cora Young created a will that left certain property located in Bloomington to her son, Dennis, upon her death and that the remainder of her property would go to her second husband, Theodore. Years later, on May 2, 2012, Cora sold the Bloomington property. She passed away the following month on June 26, 2012. Unfortunately, her son Dennis passed away before her leaving three children and Cora never made any changes to her will to specifically reference her grandchildren. As a result, when the grandchildren argued that the proceeds from the sale of the Bloomington property should go to them as heirs of Dennis, the Court disagreed. The Court said that because the property was no longer owned by Cora at the time of her Cora death, and no provision was ever specifically made for the grandchildren, the proceeds became part of the estate’s remaining property and so went to Theodore. It is unlikely that Cora Young intended to disinherit her only grandchildren when she passed away, but because she neglected to update her estate planning documents to reflect the major life changes that had occurred since 1976, such as the loss of her son, the birth of her grandchildren, and the sale of the Bloomington property, the Courts were bound by the language in the original document. Like any retirement plan or other forward looking document, it is necessary to reevaluate your estate plan and make the occasional change to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected based on present day circumstances. To talk to an attorney about updating or creating your estate plan, please call 877-877-LAW2 (5292) or 219-924-2427 to speak with one of our top estate planning professionals.

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