Here’s a secret (shhh…!): Estate planning attorneys are human. We are not perfect. Over a series of four blogs, we’ll look at some common mistakes. Are you making any of them?
In earlier blogs in this series, we looked at not coordinating the estate plan, not leaving assets the right way, and not discussing Medicaid and special needs planning. In this final blog in the series, we’ll look at not revisiting and not revising the estate plan.
When a client walks into an estate planning attorney’s office, often they are thinking of it as a simple transaction. They are thinking that they need to do their “will” and that will be the end of it. They think once it is done, that’s it. Of course, we know it’s not that simple. The plan which is appropriate for them is rarely just a will, it normally includes other documents. Of course, the most important part is the formation of the plan itself, not just the documents. But, “the best-laid schemes of mice and men go often awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!” (From Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse.)
The estate planning attorney has the onus of impressing upon the client the need to revisit the plan periodically. It’s not a “one and done.” Rather, it’s often “once and they’re a dunce.” Lives change; needs change; desires change. A plan which is picture perfect at one snapshot in time might be terrible at another snapshot in time for the same client. While we draft a plan to anticipate as many changes as possible, we cannot foresee some changes. For example, we cannot anticipate a client’s changing wishes regarding their beneficiaries.
In this series of four blogs, we’ve seen some of the most common mistakes in the estate planning process. Certainly, there are many others. But, avoiding these four mistakes in estate planning will go a long way toward serving the client well.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555