It’s fairly common for an estate planner to meet with a client who wishes to cut one or more of his or her intestate heirs out of the estate plan. Like Miss Birdie in “The Rainmaker,” they look at you and say “cut, cut, cut!” But is leaving nothing to an intestate heir or previously included beneficiary really a good idea? Or, should you counsel your clients to give such folks something to think about?
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.
When the meaning of a term significantly affects the will’s interpretation and a misunderstanding may lead to confusion, conflict, or even litigation, consider including a bespoke definition clause. The definitions should provide the personal representative (or testamentary trustee) with clear directions for the distribution even though many years may have passed between the execution of the will and the testator’s death.