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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

Why a ‘Simple’ Estate Plan May NOT Serve You Best

POSTED ON: July 15, 2011

Clients sometime come to me with the preconception that all they want is a ‘simple’ estate plan—something quick and easy that will get the job done on the cheap.  Generally they mean a Will without any trusts provisions either for themselves or for surviving family members.  To them, the low cost and quick turnaround of a simple Will allows them to feel protected without having to really take the time to consider the potential long-term consequences that a more complex estate plan seeks to avoid.

For some, less is more—but with estate planning sometimes you need to consider the big picture.   For clients with children, grandchildren, or other loved ones they wish to provide for through their estate, I often counsel them to step back and consider the possibilities.

For example, consider the cases of Harry Sr. and Charles, fictional clients with simple Wills.

Harry Sr. passed away and left all of his assets to his wife Joyce. They have one child, Harry Jr., that Harry Sr. intended to also benefit from his bequest to Joyce.  A few years later, however, Joyce got remarried to Charlie, and they bought a house together with Joyce’s money.  Joyce also named Charlie as the beneficiary of the IRA she rolled over from Harry Sr..  Joyce then died, with a Will that names Harry Jr. as the sole beneficiary.  However, despite what the Will says, Massachusetts law allows Charlie to “waive the will” and take one third of the personal and one third of the real property left to Harry Jr.  Not exactly what Harry Sr. had in mind when he wrote his ‘simple’ Will.

Charles, on the other hand, had three adult children, Abe, Barry and Connie, and four grandchildren—two from Barry and two from Connie.  In his Will, Charles left one-third of his estate to each of his kids.  When he died, each child received $200,000.  Abe used the money to buy a house with his wife.  However, they soon divorced and the judge awarded her the house leaving Abe with nothing.  Barry decided to use the money to start a business but in a tight economy his business failed, leaving him and his children with nothing from Charles’ estate. Connie put her money into a savings account, naming her husband as the beneficiary.  Connie died, and a couple of years later her husband remarried.  Sometime after that he died, and the new wife got everything.  Connie’s children, Charles’ grandchildren, are left with nothing.

These types of unintended outcomes occur every day and impact many Massachusetts families. Without planning for the possibilities, children and grandchildren are often mistakenly disinherited, leaving in-laws and creditors with the family legacy.

How can you avoid these tragic outcomes?  Call us to discuss using a trust or trusts as part of your estate plan.  It may involve a little more time and investment to implement than a ‘simple’ Will, but the long-term savings and peace of mind can be priceless.