Working with an estate planning attorney is about dealing with a host of possibilities, including death, incapacity, major medical decisions, and even physical disappearance. However, it's also important to think about the contingencies that can arise within the estate plan itself. Here are three scenarios you need to prepare for when you establish or modify a plan.
The Successorship of the Executor
It might sound like a royal title that no longer exists, but the successor to the executor is one of the most important contingencies to think about. Just as your goal in consulting with an estate planning attorney is to think about what could happen to you, it's also wise to consider what might happen to the executor.
Take the same list of possibilities that motivate your desire to create an estate plan. Now apply every one of those to the executor. Throw in the possibility that the executor might be unavailable for personal or business reasons, or they might be legally conflicted in a way you didn't anticipate.
Naming at least one successor guards against the risk that something happens to the executor. Possibly more importantly, it reduces the chances the court will appoint an administrator in the absence of one.
Something Happens to a Beneficiary
The same logic applies here. Just as something might happen to an executor, life may come fast at any of the named beneficiaries of an estate. There may be compelling reasons to not allow their stakes in the estate to devolve to descendants. For example, the beneficiary's descendants might be too young and have no one around to administer their interests. If the beneficiary is an organization, you should also consider what happens if it goes out of existence.
Similarly, you should think about what happens to a stake if there are no heirs to a beneficiary. Do you want the stake broken up among the remaining folks, or would you prefer it go to, for example, a non-profit agency?
Inability to Parse the Language of the Will
Even with the help of an estate planning attorney, there's always a risk that some part of your estate plan will be ambiguous, incomplete, or not executable. It's important to leave a plain sense of what your wishes are so an executor or a probate court can try to follow through on them. State your reasoning for particular provisions so they can still guide the process if there are concerns about the will.
To learn more, contact an estate planning attorney.
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