Estate Planning: How to “Fix” Your Estate Plan

Dec 7, 2012

Anyone creating a will in Greensboro, North Carolina, may wonder what will happen to your estate plan if you make a mistake. Many changes can occur that require reevaluation of your estate plan. Some of these changes pertain to the law, such as complex tax laws or varying uses of trusts. Some changes are more personal, such as your marital status, acquisition of wealth, or a new ideal about wealth transfers. All of the changes are likely to create a need to “fix” your estate plan to make sure it remains current. Here are four common ways to fix your estate plan.

Construction involves a court hearing to either correct an ambiguity in an estate document or determine what happens when a contingency is not specified. The court either interprets the will or applies statutory law, trying to determine the intent of the will.

Reformation is used to correct mistakes or errors in the will, not ambiguities. An error may be trivial, like a misspelling; or, it may be major, like leaving out a clause.

Amendments involve changing the terms of an estate planning document, such as a trust. Revocable trusts by definition may be amended. Irrevocable trusts are more particular – you can amend them for administrative purposes, but may not be able to amend clauses that deal with the significant provisions of the trust.

Decanting is essentially pouring one irrevocable trust into a second irrevocable trust that has more favorable of appropriate terms. This is a sophisticated technique that is only allowed by about a dozen states. However, there are other clever drafting techniques and legal means to accomplish the same sort of “do over.”

You can learn more about estate planning and potential mistakes at one of our free seminars. The next will be on December 6 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Contact our office at 336.547.9999 for registration details.

Cheryl K. David, Estate Planning Attorney

Cheryl David is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and the prestigious Trial Lawyer’s College presided over by Gerry Spence. A former Administrative Judge, Cheryl is certified as an Estate Planning Law Specialist by the ABA accredited Estate Law Specialists Board, Inc. She is also a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Medicaid Practice Systems and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

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