I commonly advise people with existing estate plans.  Many of these individuals have spent large sums of money and time creating a customized estate plan.  Then they take those estate planning documents and place them in a drawer, box, or fire proof safe and forget about them.  Sometimes years and even decades go by before they think about their estate plan.   While that estate plan might have been a high quality estate plan 20 years ago, they have now potentially left behind a mess by not properly maintaining and implementing their plan. Although the importance of drafting and executing a will or trust that fits your unique circumstances cannot be over emphasized, the most carefully crafted plan will fail if it is not maintained and implemented correctly.  The following are four mistakes to keep in mind after you have created your estate plan.

Mistake #1:  Failure to Deal with Property.  Your will or trust must deal with your property, and the failure to do so will result in the failure of your plan.  I commonly encounter trusts which do not hold title to any property and wills which do not identify key property.  Often in the case of trust plans, property was never titled in the trust in the first place, or the trustmaker accidentally transferred the property back out of the trust over time. This is why I counsel my clients to remember that in addition to drafting and executing documents, estate planning also involves properly transferring and dealing with property.

Mistake #2:  Disorganization.  Another major mistake with wills and trusts is the failure to keep documents organized.  Disorganization, whether major or minor, has the potential to thwart even the best of plans and leave a mess for your family to sort out.  You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure that your plan stays organized and discernable.

Mistake #3:  Inaccessible Plans.  A common problem I encounter with my clients is inaccessible or misplaced wills and trusts.   You need to remember where your estate plan is located in order for it to work. Otherwise, if it cannot be found, how will anyone know what you intended!?  Because safe deposit boxes are often difficult to access, I DO NOT recommend putting your plans into a safe deposit box.  Rather, I suggest to my clients that they leave their plans on a bookshelf or in a closet and – most importantly – inform their trustees and children where to find the plan.

Mistake #4:  Out of Date Plans.  Many people fail to update their wills and trusts.  It is tempting to assume that after signing your will and trust, you can simply put them away and forget about them.  However, wills and trusts are designed to deal with the realities of your life.  If your plan has gathered dust from inattention, it is likely out of date.  As a rule of thumb, you should be reviewing and updating your estate plan every 3 to 4 years.  By doing this, you will ensure that your plan is updated for changes in law which could impact the efficacy of your plan.

The following are some additional resources on keeping your estate plan current and accurate.  Remember, if you have any questions regarding your estate plan, contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

Daily Sentinel Article

Boston.com Article

Reviewing Your Existing Estate Plan

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