Attorneys are often asked to review a will prepared by either another attorney or the client who used a self-help book. But review of an existing will really means an estate plan review, including beneficiary designations and powers of attorney. It’s relatively simple to spot improper drafting, but harder to determine whether needed provisions were omitted. This checklist will help you review a will and estate plan to make sure it’s up-to-date and meets your client’s needs.
As a graduation present, your client purchases her son a home. Although the plan was for the son to live there alone, the client and her son take title as joint tenants. Years later, your client remarries and asks you to convey her interest in the house to her new husband’s children on her death. What do you do? Whatever instrument you choose, be sure to sever the joint tenancy!
State law changes enacted in 2010 have restricted the enforceability of no-contest clauses. Under Prob C §§21310–21311, a typical no-contest clause providing that an unsuccessful contestant gets nothing from an estate or trust is enforceable only against a “direct contest” brought without probable cause on specified grounds. And even if it is enforceable, a no-contest clause may not be an effective deterrent if the beneficiary thinks the amount at stake is outweighed by the benefit of a successful contest.
When drafting a revocable trust, your clients may be very keen to include a particular niece or cousin, but then have a change of heart years later and want to write them out. As long as the trust allows it, you can simply amend the trust for them instead of revoking it and starting fresh. Here’s how.
When you’re preparing a will or trust for someone for whom capacity might later be raised as an issue, you have a potentially powerful tool that can help avoid later disputes: video. There’s nothing like a judge seeing a competent person discussing the disposition of his or her estate to knock the wind out of claims of incapacity.