The following case study by Attorney Michelle D. Beneski illustrates why estate plans should be reviewed every 3-5 Years. The names and details have been changed but this is a real-life situation that came through our office recently.
Sally wanted her home to go to her daughters, Kathy and Katie, at her death. She did not want the property to have to go through the probate process, which is a common goal people have when defining their estate plan. Transferring a home to your heirs through the probate process usually costs between $3,000 and $5,000 and it can take up to a year to complete the process.
In 2014, Sally had the deed to her home re-drafted to maintain her right to live in the home and the right to sell it or give it away during her lifetime. The re-drafted deed also stated that if no additional changes were made to the deed during her lifetime, that at her death the home would automatically become Kathy and Katie’s. In that scenario, there would be no need for a probate at Sally’s death to transfer the home to Kathy and Katie.
Sally died in 2021 and, as planned, her house transferred automatically to Kathy and Katie. There was no need to probate Sally’s estate. Perfect right? Well, not really. You see Kathy died in 2016. Now the home is owned by Katie and the deceased Kathy. Katie can’t sell the house because the other owner is dead. In order to sell Kathy’s share, her estate must be probated. If Sally had completed a review of her estate plan every three to five years this problem could have been brought to Sally’s attention. Sally would have been advised to change the deed to leave the home to only Katie. At Sally’s death, Katie would have had the home immediately transferred to her, outside of probate. Then, she would have been free to sell the home immediately.
They say the only thing that doesn’t change in life is death and taxes. Your life, your family, your assets all change over time. Your estate plan is designed to reach your goals based upon the circumstances of your life, your family and your assets at the time it is created. When one of those things change, it may mean that your aspects of your estate plan need to be revised. By having your estate plan reviewed every three to five years, you increase the chances that your plan will work as you intended.
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.