Yesterday the Kansas City Star published a story on the necessity of properly updating estate planning documents. The article shared the story of a local woman whose mother had just died. The mother had created a living trust several years before and placed her residence within the trust. However, a few years after the planning occurred, the mother sold her house and moved into a different home. She died shortly after the move. The adult daughter was left wondering whether or not probate would be required for her to obtain her mother’s home.
The daughter learned after talking to legal professionals in the area that the key issue was whether her mother had taken title to the new home in the name of her trust. If so, then the new home would likely be part of the mother’s living trust to be passed to the named beneficiary of the trust per its terms. However, if the new home was not titled in the trust’s name, then it likely would not pass on via the trust. Instead the public probate process would be required for the daughter to obtain the residence.
Of course the entire purpose of the mother creating a trust in this case was to avoid probate, save on taxes, and ensure that her family members would have as seamless a transfer process as possible in the inherently difficult time. By not taking her earlier planning into account when making future transactions or consulting her estate planning attorney to assure everything was in order, the mother risked having her plan fail to work as desired at the very moment it was needed.
As noted in the story, many residents fail to update their plans accordingly because they do not appreciate the specific actions that may implicate their plan. For example, most residents are well aware that following a divorce, changes in property ownership, altered inheritance wishes, and similar matters would require an overhaul of previous financial and inheritance plans. Yet, as demonstrated in the article, even property transfers may have serious implications on these affairs. In this way, estate planning is best thought of as a prudent habit instead of a one-time event.
Our New York elder law estate planning attorneys understand the need to keep plans updated. That is why all clients utilizing our services have free monitoring of their elder law estate plan. Every plan is individually reviewed every three years, clients are invited to bi-annual meetings to update their plans, and weekly contact is maintained so that clients can easily get in touch with our office if life changes have necessitated alterations in long-term planning.
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