Last-minute estate plan changes are possible, but pose risks

An estate plan is supposed to reflect an individual's final wishes. Although a person may take time to create a thoughtful plan, his or her intended beneficiaries aren't necessarily permanent. The reality is that a people might want to change their will and trusts at any given time -- even shortly before they pass away.

Executors and trustees are required to carry out a person's will or trust to the letter. This task can be tricky, however, if there is some dispute about the validity of an estate plan at the time it's set to be enforced. Specifically, if the competency of the testator is called into question, then those who are responsible for administering can run into trouble following through with their duties.

If a person has noted health problems and he or she decides to modify a will during the final stages of an illness, some might be inclined to raise objections during probate and estate administration. Observers note that administering a competency test as the last will and testament is signed can eliminate these doubts and ensure a person's final wishes are respected.

Of course, it may also be helpful to speak with beneficiaries, executors and trustees about any significant changes to a will. In these situations, surprises can create trouble. If expectations are set appropriately for everyone involved in the estate administration process, then there will likely be less room for confusion.

Estate plans should be carried out according to a person's final wishes, no matter what. Knowing that last-minute changes could create problems shouldn't necessarily act as a deterrent to make changes to a will as necessary; rather, people should understand that it might be best to consult with an experienced attorney to help reduce the change of issues during administration.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Changing a Will at the Last Minute," Arden Dale, Nov. 10, 2013

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