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Now that you are in the driver’s seat…

If you have taken that first step and decided to take charge and resolve to move forward with estate planning, you already know that a will is something everyone should have, Now that you have made the decision to get in the “driver’s seat”, so to speak, and make a plan to protect your assets, this is where all your practice pays off. And what do I mean by “practice”? Well, like the best of them, I tend to think I am a good driver. I even flirt with the notion that I may have been a good cop driver, speeding and weaving through avenues to catch up some criminal evading arrest. Ok, well enough of my imagination. What I am trying to convey is the we are always practicing our driving skills every time we get in the driver’s seat and why do we keep “practicing” after we already have a license, you may ask? Because being a good driver, someone in control of the wheel, someone who knows where all important honks, bells and whistles of the car are to alert other bad drivers, someone who can see the road clearly and anticipate oncoming danger; that someone makes time for the skill building practice to protect themselves and the passengers they carry from any number of unexpected life events and threats. That someone has made a decision to protect the people the most care about when they strap on their seatbelt and start on the road It is just an automatic thought process, to keep safe on a daily basis.

So since you practice keeping your circle of loved ones safe everyday, with not only safe driving, but a myriad of other things, large and small, why wouldn’t you consider keeping the estate plan, will or trust you made with the intention of protecting them, safe as well with periodic checks and updates. Checking and updating your estate plan every 5 years is just about as important as deciding to create an estate plan in the first place. Especially if you have any life changes like changes involving you or your spouse, changes involving your children, grandchildren or other beneficiaries, changes in your economic situation and changes to a person named in your estate. These are just a few reasons to update you will and very general ones at that. Speaking to a board-certified estate planning attorney will be a first step to realizing which new life change or event may merit and update for you.

No will can be designed to last forever, no matter what happens.  By way of example, we have heard of a cases in which the decedent (person who died) did have a will but it was 20+ years old.

In one instance, the decedent left two children. He didn’t choose either of them as executor at the time he executed his will because they were minors and the executor he did choose at the time died.  Presumably, had he prepared a new will before he died he would have chosen either or both children as executor.  He left his estate equally to both of them so that would have been logical.  But he never updated his will  nor named a new executor. In another instance, the decedent chose his two daughters as executor and alternate but both predeceased him.  He had not chosen an alternate and never updated his will to choose a replacement even though his only son-in-law said his father-in-law had talked about naming him. Not having a recorded update to name the son-in-law as the executor.

Both wills were validly executed wills that needed to be probated in order to carry out the decedent’s wishes, however, no living executor could apply to be appointed to carry out those wishes, making the probate process more complicated than needed to be.

No matter how many years it has been since created your will or estate plan,  it’s never too late to revisit with a board-certified estate planning attorney to make the necessary updates to make the process of carrying our your wishes a smooth on. If you have any questions, I would like to send you a copy of Mike’s book, The Texan’s Guide of the Probate Process. We are here to help.

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Article by Catalina Dickerson, Editor of The J.M. Dicker

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