Despite Obvious Intent, A Will Isn’t Changed Until It Is

An unusual case from another part of the country provides a reminder to our California readers that an estate plan is not complete until you sign it. Unless your will, trust, or other documents have been finalized, it can be very difficult for your wishes to be carried out.

A man worth nearly $200 million drew up a will in 2000 that left the bulk of his estate to the company he founded. Twelve years later, his views changed and he decided to put his wealth into a charitable trust to be named Skeebo, the name of his dog. The trust was supposed to fund a foundation to work for politically conservative causes that the man supported.

To that end, the man exchanged several emails and emails expressing his intentions to change his estate plan. But then he died suddenly before he could make the changes official. On paper, his estate plan was still to leave his money to his company.

The executors of his estate are his sons. They have filed suit to have his estate plan amended to reflect his 2012 wishes instead of what is in the 2000 will. But observers say it will be difficult to convince the probate judge to go against the finalized document.

We have spoken in the past about how it can be a mistake to put off creating an estate plan. In this case, someone already had an estate plan, began the process of amending it, but was unable to finish it. Something to think about for people considering making changes to their will or trust.

Source: Charlotte Observer, “Sons of late developer suing his firm over will,” Eric Frazier, Oct. 22, 2013