Real Life Bloopers
By Robert J. Saalfeld
SAALFELD GRIGGS PC
Sometimes people don’t get around to updating their estate plans. Here are some recent examples of what can happen when they don’t:
A man signed a will that gave everything to his children from his first marriage. The man then remarried. However, he was careful to keep everything titled in his name alone. He then died. The children were surprised to learn that under Oregon law, the second marriage revoked the man’s will. Thus, the children only received one-half of the estate, and the new spouse received the other half.
A man remarried. He then signed a will giving most of his property to his children from his first marriage. Unfortunately, the title to most of the man’s property was held jointly with his second wife. Property that is held jointly in the name of both spouses passes automatically, outside the will, to the surviving spouse upon the death of the other. Therefore, contrary to the man’s wishes, at his death, his second wife received most of his property. His children received only property that was not held jointly with the man’s second wife.
A widow died and only a copy of her will was located. Oregon law provides that if the original will cannot be located, it is presumed revoked. The people who would inherit the property according to the will and the people who would receive the property if the will was considered revoked were two different sets of people. Both groups hired lawyers and eventually entered into a settlement, but the property was ultimately distributed differently than the widow had intended.
A woman owned property in several states and had executed a will. After her death, probates had to be done in each of the states she lived in because each state controls the disposition of property within that state and a probate is required to properly transfer title to the appropriate heirs. There were great delays and added attorneys fees associated with each probate proceeding. A Revocable Living Trust would have avoided the probates in all of the states. Living trusts automatically transfer ownership to a named beneficiary and avoid the hassle of having to wait for a court to transfer property under the provisions of a will.
A man listed “my estate” as the beneficiary on his life insurance. Upon his death, instead of passing automatically to the named beneficiaries outside of probate, the insurance proceeds had to run through the court probate process. This was because the court had to determine who the beneficiaries of the estate were.
A man forgot to remove his ex-wife as beneficiary on his life insurance. He died and she received the proceeds of the life insurance.
By updating your estate plan, you can avoid unexpected and unwanted results. You can have your property pass to whomever you want, the way you want, when you want, and with the least transfer tax. Call us if it is time to review or update your estate plan.