Your Contact List Can Make Or Break Your Estate Plan
Even if you are the very antithesis of a procrastinator, the kind of person who files their tax returns in February and finishes their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, updating contact information can feel like a daunting task. Notifying the DMV and your health insurance company of your new address after moving into a new home feels like a daunting task, even if you enthusiastically fold your laundry and put it away in the dresser while it is still fresh out of the dryer. If updating your own address feels like a chore, how much harder is it to motivate yourself to update the addresses of the beneficiaries of your will, or even the non-beneficiaries in your will. Believe it or not, complete and accurate contact information for the beneficiaries of your will, and even of estranged relatives you have disinherited, can make the probate process much easier. Conversely, not updating the contact information of people relevant to your estate plan can lead to all manner of conflict and ambiguity. You should periodically review your will and other estate planning documents with a Washington DC estate planning lawyer to ensure that all the contact information listed therein is up to date.
Leaving Your Estate to “My Brother Bill” Is a Terrible Idea
Writing a will, even a hastily written one, is better than nothing, but the more details you give about the beneficiaries, the better. If you leave some of your assets to “my brother Bill,” it is obvious to you and to your brother who should get the money, but it is not obvious to the probate court. Is your brother’s first name William? Willard? Bilal? What is his last name? Where does he live? The probate court is not going to do DNA tests on every guy named Bill in all 50 states to see which one has the most in common with the DNA on your toothbrush.
Ideally, you should identify each beneficiary listed in your will by their full legal name. If possible, also include their date of birth or their age at the time you wrote the will. Also indicate where they live, preferably including a street address. If you have estranged relatives that you want to disinherit, you should be similarly specific. Don’t just say that “my brother Bill” gets everything and “my brother Henry” gets nothing. You should also include Henry’s full legal name, birthdate, and address, even if you and Henry haven’t spoken in years. A forensic genealogist can help you find the contact information of estranged relatives. Tell the forensic genealogist that you are seeking this information for notification purposes only. Giving your estate planning lawyer a detailed family tree also makes the process easier.
Contact an Attorney for Help
An estate planning lawyer can help you update your will to include detailed information about beneficiaries and people you wish to exclude from inheriting from your estate. Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for help today.