Reviewing documentsThis is the next post in my series on the need for an estate plan in San Bernardino, California. My last article discussed the need to have a Trust as part of one’s estate plan. Having a Trust will allow one to help their heirs avoid the probate process while also giving them greater control over how their assets are distributed. If you have questions about the benefits of a Trust then it is important to speak with a lawyer. In this article, I will discuss the need to ensure that your estate plan is kept up to date as time passes and circumstances change.

I previously wrote on what happens when one dies without a will in California. Not having a will is a common mistake many people make. Another common mistake is when one creates a will but does not update it. This can create problems if one’s personal circumstances change or if he or she acquire new property. We will discuss each of these issues in turn.

Changes in your personal circumstances necessitate changes to your will and larger estate plan. Say, for example, that you own a piece of real estate outright and that you have a child who was born out of wedlock. You may create a will leaving the real estate to your child. Now suppose you get married after your will was drafted and your real estate remains separate property throughout your time with the new spouse. You may believe that the real estate will go to your child pursuant to the terms of your will. However, under California law, it will be presumed that you mistakenly failed to provide for your surviving spouse. In that event, the separate property will be distributed in accordance with California law, likely requiring your child share the property with your spouse. That may not have been your intention or desire. This is just one example of how a will may not foresee future circumstances and why an estate plan must be continuously reviewed and updated.

The acquisition of new property can also necessitate the updating of your estate plan. Suppose you create a will and after the document is drafted you acquire real estate. Now suppose you only had a will, but no trust, then pass away. The real estate must be distributed through probate in accordance with the terms of your will. If the will does not contain certain provisions, then it may not include distribution of your real estate. Instead, the property would be distributed in accordance with our state’s intestate succession laws. This is true regardless of whether or not such a distribution would have been consistent with your final wishes. In order to ensure that there are not unforeseen consequences stemming from your death, it is important to regularly update your estate plan.

Contact my office today to speak with a San Bernardino attorney today to discuss updating your estate plan. I am certified as a specialist in estate planning, trust, and probate law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization and am experienced in handling such matters and will ensure that you understand all of your options. We also service Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, Victorville, Rialto, Hesperia, Chino, Upland, Apple Valley, Redlands, Highland, Colton, Yucaipa, Montclair, elsewhere in the Inland Empire, as well as Los Angeles.

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