An Ineffective Estate Plan:
Old Advice or No Advice Won’t Fix It
By Dennis McAndrews, Esq., Founder and Managing Partner Emeritus, and Lesley Mehalick, J.D., LL.M., Supervising Partner of The Estates and Trusts Department
Some of the most difficult conversations we have are when opening an Estate Administration matter and learn that an outdated or ineffective will, unnecessary trust, or undesirable changes to property ownership (often created without competent legal advice), will result in unintended distributions and taxation which were not anticipated by the deceased and the family. It is essential that an estate plan be periodically reviewed, and especially after a major change in an individual’s or family’s circumstances, such as the death or disability of a loved one or beneficiary, divorce, a significant change in finances (either positive or negative) or a change in the law which affects the estate plan.
For example, many estate plans may no longer need a credit shelter trust or similar estate planning mechanism created prior to 2018 due to the significant increase in the federal estate tax exclusion. However, and on a similar vein, much of that increased federal estate tax exclusion is scheduled to disappear on January 1, 2026 due to a sunsetting of the 2018 tax act which will, absent congressional action (by a currently-divided Congress), revert the federal exclusion to 2017 levels, and individual circumstances will require careful analysis of this challenging situation.
Moreover, changes in our legal landscape regarding common law marriages, same-sex marriages, as well as shifts in family relationships can require virtually any estate plan which touches upon these matters to be reviewed, especially if the documents are older in vintage.
While some firms aggressively push families to meet with their attorney every year, this is generally not necessary absent one or more of the changes of life circumstances or legal underpinnings noted above. But when these matters occur, and at least every five years or so, a consultation to review your estate plan is always wise, and often essential. Our experienced and dedicated Estate Planning and Estate Administration team is ready to serve you and your families at this important time! Click here to contact us today!