Once an estate plan is established in California, it is advisable that the documents be reviewed and updated as needed. Such updates would be recommended in the event of a major life event such as the birth of a child, a significant change in finances or a significant change in one’s health. A qualified person entrusted with the estate administration can assist with necessary changes.
Making changes on one’s own may result in unintended consequences. There are many types of estate planning documents, and two of them are wills and trusts. Handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills, are, on occasion, changed by marking out certain provisions and replacing them with others. Depending on the situation, the change may or may not hold up in court.
A trust is different. In a recent case in California, a man hand made manual changes to a trust and sent it off to an attorney to make the requested changes to his estate. The document was accompanied by a signed post-it note attached to the document indicating the requested change, but the man died before the amendment could be executed and properly signed. A court initially ruled that the post-it signature was sufficient to execute the change, but that was overturned on appeal. Had the man sent an accompanying signed document describing the desired change, the court may have allowed it.
There are many steps and phases to estate planning, and each must be executed carefully to ensure that the desired changes will be applied as intended. People’s lives are always changing in California. Peace of mind can be achieved by knowing that one’s estate plan is up to date and that one has a plan in place for estate administration going forward.