Now is the time of year when, arguably, the last of the holiday movies gets aired on TV. The 1993 comedy“Groundhog Day”features Bill Murray stuck repeating the titular holiday in a seemingly endless loop that only he is aware of. Hilarity ensues as he struggles with the monotony of reliving the same events day in and day out. However, our firm experiences a less magical version of this endless loop— and it’s no laughing matter. For as long as I’ve been an estate planner, I’ve seen other professionals inmy field doing the same old practice the same old way. They refuse to adapt their methods to the times and consistently fail to properly educate their clients on the essentials of keeping their last wishes secure. This isn’t a far-off phenomenon I observe at a distance either; the real work begins when our firm is brought on to correct these mistakes. The principal failure I see my peers committing is their support for the age-old fallacy that an estate plan is only a one-time commitment. Whether they actively support this myth or simply fail to dispel it for their clients is irrelevant, because the end result is always the same: People end up leaving their wills and/or trusts to gather dust over decades without any revisions or oversight. This in turn leads to confusion and heartache, as these documents prove out of touch with reality when the time comes to execute them. Wills and trusts aren’t“one-and-done”plans. They are intended to be living documents that grow and change along with you and your family. After all, the beneficiaries you’d name today might not be the same ones you’d name 20 years from now. Some loved ones may pass away, others may be born, and countless other unpredictable life events can shape your wishes throughout the decades. Having regular check-ins with your estate planner is the best way tomake sure these twists and turns of life are accounted for in your final wishes. Trust Matters FEBRUARY 2020
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Estate Groundhog Day The Mistake With Wills and Trusts That Happens Again And Again
From litigation like this, to sorting out tangled probate disputes caused by out-of-date plans, our firm often finds ourselves picking up the pieces of irresponsible estate planners. So how do we break the cycle?Well, we take a cue from “Groundhog Day.” Toward the end of the movie, Murray learns to combat the monotony and despair of reliving the same day by trying to do as much good in that day as possible. He uses his knowledge and familiarity to prevent catastrophe and make the lives of those around him brighter. We strive to do the same: using our expertise to keep yesterday’s mistakes from being made
But sadly, an out-of-date plan isn’t the worst consequence of letting an estate plan languish. You see, there are others outside this industry that are well aware of the“Groundhog Day”loop of people failing to update their plans. And just like Murray’s character in the middle arc of the film, these unscrupulous individuals abuse this awareness for their own gain. individuals that haven’t thought about their estate plan in years. These interlopers eventually convince their mark to let them“help”update their will, adding themselves as beneficiaries in the process. These sorts of devastating scams can be avoided simply by havingmore regular check- ins with your estate planner. When we have an up-to-date relationship with you, it’s far easier to spot when these third parties are trying tomuscle in on the legacy you’ve built for your loved ones. At the time of writing, our firm is litigating one such case of this estate plan manipulation. The wronged party wasn’t our client initially, but we were more than happy to take on the case to defend the rights of their loved ones. We see it all the time.“Kind”neighbors and “concerned”friends that take advantage of elderly
today. Seeing the relief this brings to families is an experience worth repeating.
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