Michelle* hired an estate planning attorney to draw up a basic estate plan, including a Will, trust, power of attorney and advance directive. She gave the attorney (not anyone affiliated with TREEL) all the information he requested, including the names and ages of her minor children/beneficiaries, addresses and phone numbers for her selected representatives and agents and financial information regarding her assets.
When Michelle received the draft estate plan from her attorney, there were multiple errors. One of her son’s birthdays was wrong and the attorney had incorrectly used the proper pronouns for her other son. In addition, he swapped the contact information for each of the named representatives and omitted two of her real property holdings.
Luckily, Michelle caught the errors, and they were corrected before her estate planning documents were finalized. But if she didn’t, these seemingly small mistakes could have caused big problems for Michelle’s heirs later.
The Danger of Estate Planning Errors
If personal information is incorrect in estate planning documents, it can potentially lead to various issues and complications down the line. Estate planning documents are legally binding instruments that dictate how your assets and affairs will be managed and distributed upon your death or incapacitation. Therefore, accuracy and clarity are crucial to ensure your wishes are properly executed and to minimize the potential for disputes among family members and beneficiaries.
Here are some potential consequences of having incorrect personal information in estate planning documents:
- Invalidity: Incorrect information could potentially render the entire document or specific provisions invalid. This could happen if a court determines that the errors are significant enough to cast doubt on the document’s authenticity or the testator’s (person who signed the documents) intent.
- Ambiguity: Inaccurate personal information might lead to ambiguity about the identity of beneficiaries, heirs or other parties involved. This can result in disputes and legal challenges over the interpretation of the document and the intended distribution of assets.
- Disputes and Litigation: Inaccuracies can cause disagreements and disputes among family members, beneficiaries and other parties mentioned in the documents. This could lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles.
- Unintended Consequences: Incorrect personal information could cause assets to be distributed to the wrong individuals or create unintended tax implications.
- Delayed Distribution: Incorrect information may cause delays in the distribution of assets as the executor or trustee attempts to resolve the discrepancies. This can create financial hardships for beneficiaries who are relying on the timely receipt of their inheritance.
- Voided Beneficiary Designations: Inaccuracies in beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other financial accounts could result in the wrong individuals receiving these assets, or even the assets being subject to probate instead of passing directly to the intended beneficiaries.
To avoid these potential issues, it’s essential to carefully review and verify all personal information in your estate planning documents. If you discover errors, it’s advisable to work with an attorney to make the necessary corrections and ensure your estate planning documents accurately reflect your wishes.