Most readers realize that as time passes and people come in and out of our lives, it is important to keep our estate plan up to date. For example, after a divorce, it is likely that one would no longer want a portion of his or her estate to go to his or her now-ex-spouse. Another person may have had children later in life, or discovered a cause that he or she is passionate about. People in those situations should probably consider amending their wills and trusts to reflect their new plans.
The price of failing to review your estate plan from time to time to see if changes are needed can be loved ones who inherit nothing, against your wishes. That seems to have happened to a man whose same-sex partner passed away earlier this year.
The man and his late partner never married, even after same-sex marriage became legal in their area, but lived as a married couple from 1995 until one spouse’s death in February. But the testator’s will, which he filed in 1990, only lists his siblings as beneficiaries. His estate includes the home the couple lived in, meaning that his partner could be out of a home unless he can convince the court that he was part of a common-law marriage.
Though it usually brings peace of mind to have an estate plan in place, it may seem unpleasant to ponder the legal consequences of your death a second or third time. But none of us knows when our time will come. If you pass on before taking the time to make sure your estate plan is in line with your current wishes, you could end up including — and excluding — the wrong people.
Source: ABA Journal, “Gay man asks DC court to declare him common-law husband of deceased partner,” Mark Hansen, Aug. 20, 2013