Welcome to the third in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month we discussed the issue of the legal rights of life partners when there is no documented will in existence. This month we are stressing the importance of regularly updating your estate plan.
Fictional Situation: George
- 67-year-old male
- Divorced from wife of 30 years
- Remarried for 10 years
- 1 child, 3 step-children
- Makes $100,000/year
- Owns a recreational vehicle
- Has life insurance, investments, savings
- Created a will 25 years ago, never updated
Life has a way of speeding by at light speed. We all get caught up in the daily tasks of work, family, social engagements and, unfortunately, crisis situations that often make us say, “Where did the time go?” This is exactly what could happen to George in our fictional situation.
George was proactive in creating a will 25 years ago that left his entire estate to his wife and child. After 30 years of marriage, George experienced a nasty divorce that left he and his ex-wife on unspeaking terms and left him estranged from his only child. In all of the turmoil of the divorce, George neglected to update his will. His main priority was to end the relationship and get on with his new life.
And get on with a new life he did. He remarried a woman with 3 adult children and was happy once again.
If George would happen to pass away without updating his will, it is most likely that his estranged child would still inherit his estate. Colorado law provides that upon a Court issuing a divorce decree, the ex-spouse is removed as a beneficiary and fiduciary in any existing estate planning documents but George’s estranged child would still be a beneficiary under his existing will. His new wife could very possibly be left with inadequate financial support to continue living the lifestyle for which she had become accustomed. George’s new wife could file statutory elections against his estate, but the estate could end up in a lengthy and quite vicious probate litigation with both sides fighting to the end.
This is not the way George would want to leave his family. The way to avoid or minimize this unfortunate situation is by regularly reviewing your estate plan to ensure that your wishes are still reflected properly. You may want to work with an estate planning lawyer to help you remember to review your documents on a set schedule (annually, every 5 years, every 10 years, etc.). It’s a time investment in the protection of the ones you love.
A Denver estate planning attorney like the team we have at Brown & Crona, LLC (formerly The Brown Law Firm, LLC) can help you draft an estate plan and stick to a document review schedule. To learn more or to hire a Denver estate planning lawyer, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.
Watch for our blog next month for the next installment of our Probate Horror Story Series.