Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Prevent These Estate Planning Blunders

Last will and testament

Dan Chilton’s elderly mother updated her will in the early 2000s in an attempt to minimize future dissent among her nine heirs.  Yet, dissent is all that remains since her passing in 2011. 

Two problems that arose were the ambiguity of the will language and the “in terrorem” clause that threatened to disinherit an heir who tried to contest the will.  Several heirs spent thousands of dollars negotiating and contesting the execution of the will. 

In order to avoid these types of mistakes when planning wills and estates, experts suggest utilizing a team approach.  “A lot of estate attorneys don’t reach out to financial advisors, because they don’t understand the value they can add, especially if there’s a potential challenge.”  However, family accountants and financial advisors can be very helpful, as they often know most about a family’s dynamics. 

It is also critical to find an ideal attorney-client match.  Take time to search for the right attorney, because estate planning is very technical.  “Inquire at your local bank’s trust department for names of three competent estate-planning referrals, or visit a reputable website such as the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.” 

Lastly, it is important to have your will or trust reviewed at least every three to five years due to ever-changing estate laws.  Another reason for review is to catch any errors.  “The biggest estate-planning issue we are seeing is poorly drafted documents.” 

See Deborah Nason, How to Avoid Estate, Will Blunders, CNBC, June 28, 2014.


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