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AVOIDABLE MISTAKE: FAILING OT UPDATE YOUR ESTATE PLANNING

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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney I see all kinds of mistakes people make when it comes to estate planning. For most people, the biggest mistake is that they don’t get any estate planning done at all. They have no documents, including no last will and testament, no power of attorney, no living will, and no power of attorney for health care. However, there are other devastating mistakes that a person can make when it comes to their own estate plan. Perhaps the most common one is when a person does get their estate planning documents done but they fail to keep these documents properly updated. That is the focus of today’s article.

I like to tell people that their documents including their will and so forth, have a shelf life. In fact, it’s a good idea to think about your estate-planning as having an expiration date. Most importantly, your documents need to be updated anytime you go through a major life change. Major life changes include the birth of someone, the death of someone, a marriage, a divorce, someone moving away, or just the passage of time. A couple of examples will help illustrate what this means.

Most people are familiar with Heath Ledger because of his definitive interpretation of the character of the Joker in the Batman movie The Dark Knight. Unlike many celebrities, Heath actually did complete an estate plan for himself including a written will. The problem is he did not update his estate plan. As a result, when he died unexpectedly in January of 2008, his old will left his entire $20 million estate to his parents and three sisters. His daughter, that was born after his will had been drafted, was completely omitted.

The good news is these relatives all decided that Heath’s estate should go to his daughter which is what he would have wanted. In most instances, the omitted person in a will is not so lucky.

As another example, Michael Crichton, who was the best selling author of such books as Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, The Lost World, Timeline, and others had a sizable estate when he passed away from cancer in 2008. His heirs included a grown daughter from a previous marriage, his current wife, and his unborn son. The problem is, Crichton failed to update his estate plan to provide for his unborn son.

After his death, his wife filed a lawsuit against the estate to include her son as an heir. However, Crichton’s adult daughter opposed the lawsuit and a long drawn-out legal battle took place. In the end, the court ruled that the unborn son would receive a portion of the estate. The immense legal fees and hurt feelings could easily have been avoided by simply updating the will.

So if you have an estate plan, and it’s been some time since you looked it over, it’s time to pull it out and read it. It’s likely that you’ve gone through a major life change or two yourself. If you have, it’s entirely possible that your estate plan needs to be updated so that it accurately does what you intend it to do.

If you have questions about your own estate planning we can help.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lane@racineolson.com. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems. I have helped numerous clients create their own customized estate plans and I’m confident that I can help you too.

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